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PAGE >^ 

\/l. DARWINISM IN MORALS. (Theological Review, April, 1871.) 1 

i// 2. HEREDITARY PIETY. (Theological Review, April, 1870.) ... 35 
3. THE RELIGION OF CHILDHOOD. (Theological Review, July, 

.1866.) 65 

. 4. AN ENGLISH BROAD CHURCHMAN. (Theological Review, 

January, 1866.) 95 

- V\*- 

V t; 5. A FRENCH THEIST. (Theological Review, May, 1865.) ... 129 

6. THE DEVIL. (Fortnightly Review, August, 1871.) 147 

7. A PRE-HISTORIC RELIGION. (Eraser s Magazine, April, 1869.) 175 

8. THE RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD. (Eraser s Magazine, June, 

1868.) 203 

9. THE RELIGIONS OF THE EAST. (Eraser s Magazine, February, 

1868.) 235 


Magazine, March, 1870.) 269 

< 11. UNCONSCIOUS CEREBRATION. (Macmillan s Magazine, Novem 
ber, 1870.) 305 


(Macmillan s Magazine, April, 1871.) 335 


(Theological Review, January, 1872.) 363 


Friend, January 15, 1872.) 391 




IT is a singular fact that whenever we find out how any 
thing is done, our first conclusion seems to be that God did 
not do it. No matter how wonderful, how beautiful, how 
infinitely complex and delicate, has been the machinery 
which has worked, perhaps for centuries, perhaps for millions 
of ages, to bring about some beneficent result if we can 
but catch a glimpse of the wheels, its divine character dis 
appears. The machinery did it all. It would be altogether 
superfluous to look further. 

The olive has been commonly called the Phoenix of trees, 
because when it is cut down it springs to life again. The 
notion that God is only discernible in the miraculous and 
the inexplicable, may likewise be called the Phosnix of 
ideas ; for again and again it has been exploded, and yet 
it re-appears with the utmost regularity whenever a new 
step is made in the march of Science. The explanation 
of each phenomenon is still first angrily disputed and then 
mournfully accepted by the majority of pious people, just 

1 The Descent of Man. By Charles Darwin, M.A., F.R.S. Two vols. 8vo. 
London: Murray. 1871. 



as if finding out the ways of God were not necessarily 
bringing ourselves nearer to the knowledge of Him, and the 
highest bound of the human intellect were not to be able 
to say, like Kepler, "0 God, I think Thy thoughts after 

That the doctrine of the descent of man from the lower 
animals, of which Mr. Darwin has been the great teacher, 
should be looked on as well nigh impious by men not men 
tally chained to the Hebrew cosmogony, has always appeared 
to me surprising. Of course, in so far as it disturbs the 
roots of the old theology and dispels the golden haze 
which hung in poetic fancy over the morning garden of 
the world, it may prove a rude and painful innovation. 
A Calvin, a Milton, and a Fra Angelico, may be excused 
if they recalcitrate against it. [Doubtless, also, the special 
Semitic contempt for the brutes which has unhappily 
passed with our religion into so many of our graver views, 
adds its quota to the common sentiment of repugnance ; 
and we stupidly imagine that to trace Man to the Ape 
is to degrade the progeny, and not (as a Chinese would 
justly hold) to ennoble the ancestry. But that, beyond 
all these prejudices, there should lurk in any free mind 
a dislike to Darwinism on religious grounds, is wholly 
beyond comprehension. Surely, were any one to come 
to us now in these days for the first time with the story 
that the eternal God produced all His greatest works by 
fits and starts ; that just 6000 years ago He suddenly 
brought out of nothing the sun, moon, and stars ; and finally 
as the climax of six days of such labour, " made man of 
the dust of the ground," we should be inclined to say that 
this was the derogatory and insufferable doctrine of creation; 
and that when we compared it with that of the slow evolu 
tion of order, beauty, life, joy, and intelligence, from the 
immeasurable past of the primal nebula s " fiery cloud," we 


had no language to express how infinitely more religious is 
the story of modern science than that of ancient tradition ? 

Nor are we alarmed or disturbed because the same hand 
which has opened for us these grand vistas of physical 
development has now touched the phenomena of the moral 
world, and sought to apply the same method of investigation 
to its most sacred mysteries. The only question we can ask 
is, whether the method has been as successful in the one case 
as (we learn from competent judges) it may be accounted in 
the other, and whether the proffered explanation of moral 
facts really suffices to explain them. [ Should it prove so 
successful and sufficient, we can but accept it, even as we 
welcomed the discovery of the physical laws of evolution as 
a step towards a more just conception than we had hitherto 
possessed of the order of things ; and therefore if God be 
their Orderer a step towards a better knowledge of Him.^ 

The book before us is doubtless one whose issue will 
make an era in the history of modern thought. Of its 
wealth of classified anecdotes of animal peculiarities and 
instincts, and its wide sweep of cumulative argument in 
favour of the author s various deductions, it would be almost 
useless to speak, seeing that before these pages are printed 
the reading public of England will have spent many happy 
hours over these " fairy tales of science." Of the inexpres 
sible charm of the author s manner, the straightforwardness 
of every argument he employs, and the simplicity of every 
sketch and recital, it is still less needful to write, when 
years have elapsed since Mr. Darwin took his place in the 
literature of England and the philosophy of the world. 
Yery soon that delightful pen will have made familiar to 
thousands the pictures of which the book is a gallery. 
Every one will know that our first human parents, far from 
resembling Milton s glorious couple, were hideous beings 
covered with hair, with pointed and movable ears, beards, 


tusks, and tails, the very Devils of mediaeval fancy. And 
behind these we shall dimly behold yet earlier and lower 
ancestors, receding through the ages till we reach a period 
before even the vertebrate rank was attained, and when 
the creature whose descendants were to be heroes and 
sages swam about in the waters in likeness between an eel 
and a worm. At every dinner-table will be told the story 
of the brave ape which came down amid its dreaded human 
foes to redeem a young one of its species ; and of the saga 
cious baboon which, Bismarck-like, finding itself scratched 
by a cat, deliberately bit off its enemy s claws. Satirists 
will note the description of the seals which, in wooing, 
how to the females and coax them gently till they get them 
fairly landed ; then, " with a changed manner and a harsh 
growl," drive the poor wedded creatures home to their 
holes. The suggestion that animals love beauty of colour 
and of song, and even (in the case of the bower-bird) build 
halls of pleasure distinct from their nests for purposes of 
amusement only, will be commented on, and afford suggestive 
talk wherever books of such a class are read in England. 
Few students, we think, will pass over without respectful 
pause the passage l where Mr. Darwin with so much candour 
explains that he " now admits that in the earlier editions of 
his Origin of Species he probably attributed too much to 
the action of natural selection," nor that 2 where he calls 
attention to Sir J. Lubbock s "most just remark," that 
" Mr. Wallace, with characteristic unselfishness, ascribes 
the idea of natural selection unreservedly to Mr. Darwin, 
although, as is well known, he struck out the idea inde 
pendently, and published it, though not with the same 
elaboration, at the same time." Whatever doubt any reader 
may entertain of the philosophy of Evolution, it is quite 

1 Vol. i., page 152. 2 Page 137, note. 


impossible that, after perusing such, pages, he can have any 
hesitation about the philosophic spirit of its author. 

But we must turn from these topics, which properly con 
cern the journals of physical science, to the one whose treat 
ment by Mr. Darwin gives to a Theological Review the right 
to criticize the present volume. Mr. Darwin s theories have 
hitherto chiefly invaded the precincts of traditional Theology. 
We have now to regard him as crowning the edifice of 
Utilitarian ethics by certain doctrines respecting the nature 
and origin of the Moral Sense, which, if permanently allowed 
to rest upon it, will, we fear, go far to crush the idea of Duty 
level with the least hallowed of natural instincts. It is 
needless to say that Mr. Darwin puts forth his views on this, 
as on all other topics, with perfect moderation and simplicity, 
and that the reader of his book has no difficulty whatever in 
comprehending the full bearing of the facts he cites and the 
conclusions he draws from them. 

In the present volume he has followed out to their results 
certain hints given in his "Origin of Species" and "Animals 
under Domestication," and has, as it seems, given Mr., 
Herbert Spencer s abstract view of the origin of the moral 
sense its concrete application. Mr. Spencer broached the 
doctrine that our moral sense is nothing but the " expe 
riences of utility organized and consolidated through all 
past generations." Mr. Darwin has afforded a sketch of 
how such experiences of utility, beginning in the ape, might 
(as he thinks) consolidate into the virtue of a saint ; and 
adds some important and quite harmonious remarks, tending 
to show that the Virtue so learned is somewhat accidental, 
and might perhaps have been what we now call Vice. To 
mark his position fairly, it will be necessary to glance at the 
recent history of ethical philosophy. 

Independent or Intuitive Morality has of course always 
taught that there is a supreme and necessary moral law 


common to all free agents in the universe, and known to 
man by means of a transcendental reason or divine voice 
of conscience. Dependent or Utilitarian Morality has equally 
steadily rejected the idea of a law other than the law of 
utility ; but its teachers have differed exceedingly amongst 
themselves as to the existence or non-existence of a specific 
sense in man, requiring him to perform actions whose 
utility constitutes them duties ; and among those who have 
admitted that such a sense exists, there still appear wide 
variations in the explanations they offer of the nature and 
origin of such a sense. The older English Utilitarians, such 
as Mandeville, Hobbes, Paley and "Waterland, denied vigor 
ously that man had any spring of action but self-interest. 
Hume, Hartley, and Bentham advanced a step further ; 
Hartley thinking it just possible to love virtue " as a form 
of happiness," and Bentham being kind enough elaborately 
to explain that we may truly sympathize with the woes of our 
friends. Finally, wheri the coldest of philosophies passed 
into one of the loftiest of minds and warmest of hearts, 
Utilitarianism in the school of Mr. Mill underwent a sort 
of divine travesty. Starting from the principle that "actions 
are only virtuous because they promote another end than 
virtue/ he attained the conclusion, that sooner than natter 
a cruel Almighty Being he would go to hell. As Mr. Mill 
thinks such a decision morally right, he would of course 
desire that all men should follow his example; and thus 
we should behold the apostle of Utility conducting the 
whole human race to eternal perdition for the sake of 
shall we say " the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest 
Number " ? 

At this stage, the motive-power on which Utilitarianism 
must rely for the support of virtue is obviously complex, if 
not rather unstable. So long as the old teachers appealed 
simply to the interest of the individual, here or hereafter, 


the argument was clear enough, however absurd a misuse 
of language it seems to make Virtue and Yice the names 
respectively of a systematized and an unsystematized rule of 
selfishness. But when we begin to speak of the happiness 
of others as our aim, we necessarily shift our ground, and 
appeal to sympathy, to social instincts, or to the disinterested 
pleasures of benevolence, till finally, when we are bid to 
relinquish self altogether in behalf of the Greatest Happiness 
of the Greatest Number, we have left the Utilitarian ground 
so far away, that we find ourselves on the proper territories 
of the Intuitionist, and he turns round with the question, 
" Why should I sacrifice myself for the happiness of man 
kind, if I have no intuitions of duty compelling me to do so ? " 
The result has practically been, that the Social Instincts 
to which Utilitarians in such straits were forced to appeal, 
as the springs of action in lieu of the Intuitions of duty, 
have been gradually raised by them to the rank of a distinct 
element of our nature, to be treated now (as self-interest 
was treated by their predecessors) as the admitted motives 
of virtue. They agree with Intuitionists that man has a 
Conscience ; they only differ from them on the two points of 
how he comes by it ; and whether its office be supreme and 
legislative, or merely subsidiary and supplemental. 

Clt is the problem of, How we come by a conscience, 
which Mr. Darwin applies himself to solve, and with which 
we shall be now concerned.] Needless to say that the Kantian 
doctrine of a Pure Reason, giving us transcendental know 
ledge of necessary truths, is not entertained by the school 
of thinkers to which he belongs ; and that as for the notion 
of all the old teachers of the world, that the voice of 
Conscience is the voice of God, the doctrine of Job and 
Zoroaster, Menu and Pythagoras, Plato and Antoninus, 
Chrysostom and Gregory, Fenelon and Jeremy Taylor, it 
can have no place in their science. As Comte would say, 


we have passed the theologic stage, and must not think 
of running to a First Cause to explain phenomena. After 
all (they seem to say), cannot we easily suggest how man 
might acquire a conscience from causes obviously at work 
around him. ? " Education, fear of penalties, sympathy, desire 
of approval, with imaginary religious sanctions, would alto 
gether, well mixed and supporting one another, afford suffi 
cient explanation of feelings, acquired, as Mr. Bain thinks, 
by each individual in his lifetime,/ and, as Mr. Mill justly 
says, not the less natural for being acquired and not innate. 
fAt this point of the history, the gradual extension of 
the Darwinian theory of Evolution brought it into contact 
with the speculations of moralists, and the result was a 
new hypothesis, which has greatly altered the character 
of the whole controversy. The doctrine of the transmission 
by hereditary descent of all mental and moral qualities, of 
which Mr. Gralton s book is the chief exponent, 1 received, 
in 1868, from Mr. Herbert Spencer the following definition, 
as applied to the moral sentiments : 2 " I believe that the 
experiences of utility, organized and consolidated through 
all past generations of the human race, have been producing 
corresponding modifications, which by continued transmis 
sion and accumulation have become in us certain faculties 

1 Keviewed in the next essay. 

2 Letter to Mr. Mill, in Bain s " Mental and Moral Science," p. 722 ; quoted 
in "Descent of Man," p. 101. On the day of the original publication of this 
essay there appeared in the Fortnightly Review an article by Mr. Spencer, 
designed to rectify the misapprehension of his doctrine into which Mr. Hutton, 
Sir John Lubbock, Mr. Mivart, Sir Alexander Grant, and, as it proved, my 
humble self, had all fallen regarding the point in question. "If," says Mr. 
Spencer very pertinently, " a general doctrine concerning a highly involved 
class of phenomena could be adequately presented in a single paragraph of a 
letter, the writing of books would be superfluous." I may add that as it would be 
equally impossible for me adequately to present Mr. Spencer s rectifications and 
modifications in a single paragraph of an essay, I must, while apologizing to him 
for my involuntary errors, refer the reader to his own article (Fortnightly Review, 
April 1, 1871) for better comprehension of the subject. 


of moral intuition, certain emotions responding to right 
and wrong conduct, which have no apparent basis in the 
individual experiences of utility." < This doctrine (which 
received a very remarkable answer* in an article by Mr. 
E. H. Hutton, Macmillan s Magazine, July, 1869) may be 

considered as the basis on which Mr. Darwin proceeds, 
approaching the subject, as he modestly says, "exclusively 
from the side of natural history," and " attempting to see 
how far the study of the lower animals can throw light on 
one of the highest psychical faculties of man." His results, 
as fairly as I can state them, are as follows : 

If we assume an animal to possess social instincts (such, I 
suppose, as those of rooks, for example), and also to acquire 
some degree of intelligence corresponding to that of man, it 
would inevitably acquire contemporaneously a moral sense 
of a certain kind. In the first place, its social instincts 
would cause it to take pleasure in the society of its fellows, 
to feel a certain amount of sympathy with them, and to per 
form various services for them. After this, the next step 
in mental advance would cause certain phenomena of re 
gretful sentiments (hereafter to be more fully analyzed) to 
ensue on the commission of anti- social acts, which obey a 
transient impulse at the cost of a permanent social instinct. 

[^Thirdly, the approval expressed by the members of the \ 
community for acts tending to the general welfare, and 
disapproval for those of a contrary nature, would greatly 
strengthen and guide the original instincts as Language 
came into full play. Lastly, habit in each individual 
would gradually perform an important part in the regulation 
of conduct. If these positions be all granted, the problem 
of the origin of the moral sense seems to be solved.J It is 
found to be an instinct in favour of the social virtues 
which has grown up in mankind, and would have grown 
up in any animal similarly endowed and situated ; and it 


does not involve any higher agency for its production than 
that of the play of common human life, nor indicate any 
higher nature for its seat than the further developed in 
telligence of any gregarious brute. So far, Mr. Darwin s 
view seems only to give to those he has quoted from Mr. 
Spencer their full expansion. The points on which he 
appears to break fresh ground from this starting-place are 
these two : 1st, his theory of the nature of conscientious 
Repentance, which represents it as solely the triumph of a 
permanent over a transient impulse ; 2nd, his frank ad 
mission, that though another animal, if it became intelligent, 
would acquire a moral sense, yet that he sees no reason why 
its moral sense should be the same as ours, or lead it to 
attach the idea of right or wrong to the same actions. In 
extreme cases (such as that of bees), the moral sense, de 
veloped under the conditions of the hive, would, he thinks, 
impress it as a duty on sisters to murder their brothers. 

It must be admitted that these two doctrines between them 
effectively revolutionize Morals, as they have been hitherto 
commonly understood. The first dethrones the moral sense 
from that place of mysterious supremacy which Butler 
considered its grand characteristic. Mr. Darwin s Moral 
Sense is simply an instinct originated, like a dozen others, 
by the conditions under which we live, but which happens, 
in the struggle for existence among all our instincts, to 
resume the upper hand when no other chances to be in the 
ascendant. And the second theory aims a still more deadly 
blow at ethics, by affirming that, not only has our moral 
sense come to us from a source commanding no special 
respect, but that it answers to no external or durable, not 
to say universal or eternal, reality, and is merely tentative 
and provisional, the provincial prejudice, as we may de 
scribe it, of this little world and its temporary inhabitants, 
which would be looked on with a smile of derision by 


better-informed people now residing in Mars, or hereafter 
to be developed on earth, and who in their turn may be 
considered as walking in a vain shadow by other races. 
Instead of Montesquieu s grand aphorism, "La justice est 
un rapport de convenance qui se trouve reellement entre 
deux ehoses ; ce rapport est toujours le meme quelque etre 
qui le considere, soit que ce soit Dieu, soit que ce soit 
un homme," Mr. Darwin will leave us only the sad assu 
rance that our idea of Justice is all our own, and may 
mean nothing to any other intelligent being in the uni 
verse. It is not even, as Dean Mansel has told us, given 
us by our Creator as a representative truth, intended at 
least to indicate some actual transcendent verity behind 
it. We have now neither Yeil nor Revelation, but only 
an earth-born instinct, carrying with it no authority what 
ever beyond the limits of our race and special social state, 
nor within them further than we choose to permit it to 
weigh on our minds. 

Let me say it at once. These doctrines appear to me 
simply the most dangerous which have ever been set forth 
since the days of Mandeville. Of course, if science can 
really show good cause for accepting them, their conse 
quences must be frankly faced. But it is at least fitting to 
come to the examination of them, conscious that it is no 
ordinary problems we are criticizing, but theories whose 
validity must involve the ^validity of all the sanctions 
which morality has hitherto received from powers beyond 
those of the penal laws. As a matter of practice, no doubt 
men act in nine cases out of ten with very small regard to 
their theories of ethics, even when they are thoughtful enough 
to have grasped any theory at all ; and generations might 
elapse after the universal acceptance of these new views by 
philosophers, before they would sensibly influence the con 
duct of the masses of mankind. But however slowly they 


might work, I cannot but believe that in the hour of their 
triumph would be sounded the knell of the virtue of man 
kind. It has been hard enough for tempted men and women 
heretofore to be honest, true, unselfish, chaste, or sober, 
while passion was clamouring for gratification, or want 
pining for relief. The strength of the fulcrum on which 
has rested the virtue of many a martyr and saint, must 
have been vast as the Law of the Universe could make it. 
But where will that fulcrum be found hereafter, if men con 
sciously recognize that what they have dreamed to be 

" The unwritten law divine, 
Immutable, eternal, not like those of yesterday, 
But made ere Time began," 

the law by which " the most ancient heavens are fresh and 
strong/ is, in truth, after all, neither durable nor even 
general among intelligent beings, but simply consists of 
those rules of conduct which, among many that might 
have been adopted, have proved themselves on experiment 
to be most convenient ; and which, in the lapse of ages, 
through hereditary transmission, legislation, education, and 
such methods, have got woven into the texture of our 
brains ? What will be the power of such a law as this to 
enable it to contend for mastery in the soul with any 
passion capable of rousing the most languid impulse ? 
Hitherto good men have looked on Repentance as the most 
sacred of all sentiments, and have measured the nearness of 
the soul to God by the depth of its sense of the shame and 
heinousness of sin. The boldest of criminals have betrayed 
at intervals their terror of the Erinnyes of Eemorse, against 
whose scourges all religions have presented themselves as 
protectors, with their devices of expiations, sacrifices, pen 
ances, and atonements. From Orestes at the foot of the 

1 Sophoc. Antig. 454. 


altar of Phoebus, to the Anglican in his new confessional 
to-day; from the Aztec eating the heart of the victim 
slain in propitiation for sin, to the Hindoo obeying the 
law of Menu, and voluntarily starving himself to death as 
an expiation of his offences, history bears testimony again 
and again to the power of this tremendous sentiment ; and 
if it have driven mankind into numberless superstitions, 
it has, beyond a doubt, also served as a threat more effec 
tive against crime than all the penalties ever enacted by 
legislators. But where is Repentance to find place here 
after, if Mr. Darwin s view of its nature be received ? Will 
any man allow himself to attend to the reproaches of 
Conscience, and bow his head to her rebukes, when he 
clearly understands that it is only his more durable Social 
Instinct which is re-asserting itself, because the more variable 
instinct which has caused him to disregard it is temporarily 
asleep ? Such a Physiology of Repentance reduces its claims 
on our attention to the level of those of our bodily wants ; 
and our grief for a past crime assumes the same aspect as 
our regret that we yesterday unadvisedly preferred the 
temporary enjoyment of conversation to the permanent 
benefit of a long night s rest, or the flavour of an indiges 
tible dish to the wholesomeness of our habitual food. We 
may regret our imprudence ; but it is quite impossible we 
should ever again feel penitence for a sin. 

But is this all true ? Can such a view of the moral 
nature of man be sustained? Mr. Darwin says that he 
has arrived at it by approaching the subject from the side 
of natural history ; and we may therefore, without dis 
respect, accept it as the best which the study of man simply 
as a highly developed animal can afford. That glimmering 
of something resembling our moral sense often observable 
in brutes, which Mr. Darwin has admirably described, may 
(we will assume) be so accounted for. But viewing human 


nature from other sides besides that of its animal origin, 
studying the mind from within rather than from without, 
and taking into consideration the whole phenomenon pre 
sented by such a department of creation as the Human 
Hace, must we not hold that this Simious Theory of Morals 
is wholly inadequate and unsatisfactory? Probably Mr. 
Darwin himself would say that he does not pretend to 
claim for it the power to explain exhaustively all the mys 
teries of our moral nature, but only to afford such a clue 
to them as ought to satisfy us that, if pursued further, they 
might be so revealed ; and to render, by its obvious sim 
plicity, other and more transcendent theories superfluous. 
The matter to be decided (and it is almost impossible, I 
think, to overrate its importance) is : Does it give such an 
explanation of the facts as to justify us in accepting it, pro 
visionally, as an hypothesis of the origin of Morals ? 

It is hard to know how to approach properly the later 
developments of a doctrine like that of Utilitarian Morality, 
which we conceive to be founded on a radically false basis. 
If we begin at the beginning, and dispute its primary 
positions, we shift the controversy in hand to the intermina 
ble wastes of metaphysical discussion, where few readers 
will follow, and where the wanderer may truly say that 


" immeasurably spread, 
Seem lengthening as I go." 

All the time which is wanted to argue the last link of 
the system, is lost in seeking some common ground to 
stand upon with our opponent, who probably will end by 
disputing the firmness of whatever islet of granite we have 
chosen in the bog ; and will tell us that the greatest modern 
thinkers are doubtful whether twice two will make four 
in all worlds, or whether Space may not have more than 
three dimensions. Yet to grant the premisses of Utilitarian 


ethics, and then attempt to dispute one by one the chain 
of doctrines which has been unrolling from them during 
the last century, and which has now reached, as it would 
seem, its ultimate, and perhaps logical, development, is 
to place our arguments at an unfair disadvantage. To 
treat scientificalty the theories of Mr. Darwin, we ought to 
commence by an inquiry into the validity of the human 
consciousness ; into the respective value of our various 
faculties, the senses, the intellect, the moral, religious and 
aesthetic sentiments, as witnesses of external truths ; and, 
finally, into the justice or fallacy of attaching belief exclu 
sively to facts of which we have cognizance through one 
faculty let us say the intellect ; and denying those which 
we observe by another say the aesthetic taste or the reli 
gious or moral sentiments. He who will concede that the 
intellect is not the organ through which we appreciate a 
song or a picture, and that it would be absurd to test songs 
and pictures by inductive reasoning and not by the specific 
sense of the beautiful, is obviously bound to show cause 
why, if after making such admission in the case of our 
aesthetic faculties he refuse to concede to the religious 
and moral faculties the same right to have their testimony 
admitted in their own domain. 

Proceeding to our next step, if we are to do justice to 
our cause, we must dispute the Utilitarian s first assump 
tion on his proper ground. We must question whether the 
Right and the Useful are really synonymous, and whether ./ 
Self-interest and Yirtue can be made convertible terms -"K 
even by such stringent methods as those of extending the 
meaning of " Self-interest " to signify a devotion to the 
" Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number " (always 
inclusive of Number One), and of curtailing that of Yirtue 
to signify the fulfilment of Social, irrespective of Personal 
and Religious obligations. That the common sentiment 


of mankind looks to something different from Utility in 
the actions to which it pays the tribute of its highest 
reverence, and to something different from noxiousness 
in those which it most profoundly abhors, is a fact so 
obvious, that modern Utilitarians have recognized the im 
possibility of ignoring it after the manner of their pre 
decessors ; and Mr. Herbert Spencer has fully admitted 
that the ideas of the Right and the Useful are now 
entirely different, although they had once, he thinks, the 
same origin. But that the idea of the Right was ever 
potentially enwrapped or latent in the idea of the Useful, 
we entirely deny, seeing that it not only overlaps it alto 
gether, and goes far beyond it in the direction of the Noble 
and the Holy, but that it is continually in direct antithesis 
to it ; and acts of generosity and courage (such as Mr. Mill s 
resolution to go to hell rather than say an untruth) com 
mand from us admiration, not only apart from their utility, 
but because they set at defiance every principle of utility, 
and make us feel that to such men there are things dearer 
than eternal joy. As Mr. Mivart says well, the sentiment 
of all ages which has found expression in the cry, " Fiat 
Justitia ruat crelum," could never have sprung from the 
same root as our sense of Utility. 

Proceeding a step farther downwards to the point where 
with alone Mr. Darwin concerns himself the origin of such 
moral sense as recent Utilitarians grant that we possess 
we come again on a huge field of controversy. Are our 
intuitions of all kinds, those, for instance, regarding space, 
numbers and moral distinctions, ultimate data of our men 
tal constitution, ideas obtained by the a-priori action of 
the normally developed mind ; or are they merely, as Mr. 
Hutton has paraphrased Mr. Spencer s theory, "a special 
susceptibility in our nerves produced by a vast number 
of homogeneous ancestral experiences agglutinated into a 


single intellectual tendency " ? Is our sense of the necessity 
and universality of a truth (e.g., that the three sides of all 
triangles in the universe are equal to two right angles), and 
the unhesitating certainty with which we affirm such univer 
sality, over and above any possible experience of generality, 
is this sense we say, the expression of pure Reason, 
or is it nothing but a blind incapacity for imagining as 
altered that which we have never seen or heard of as 
changed ? Volumes deep and long as Kant s Kritik or Mr. 
Spencer s " Principles " are needed, if this question is to 
receive any justice at our hands. All that it is possible to 
do in passing onward to our remarks on Mr. Darwin s views, 
is to enter our protest against the admission of any such 
parentage either for mathematical or moral intuitions. No 
event in a man s mental development is, I think, more 
startling than his first clear apprehension of the nature of 
a geometrical demonstration, and of the immutable nature 
of the truth he has acquired, against which a thousand 
miracles would not avail to shake his faith. The hypothesis 
of the inheritance of space-intuitions through numberless 
ancestral experiments, leaves this marvellous sense of cer 
tainty absolutely inexplicable. And when we apply the 
same hypothesis of inheritance to moral intuitions, it appears 
to me to break down still more completely; supplying us 
at the utmost with a plausible theory for the explanation 
of our preference for some acts as more useful than others, 
but utterly failing to suggest a reason for that which is the 
real phenomenon to be accounted for, namely, our sense of 
the sacred obligation of Rightfulness, over and above or 
apart from Utility. Nay, what Mr. Mill calls the " mystical 
extension " of the idea of Utility into the idea of Right is 
not only left wholly unexplained, but the explanation offered 
points, not to any such mystical extension, but quite the 
other way. The waters of our moral life cannot possibly 



rise above their source ; and if Utility be that source, they 
ought by this time to have settled into a dead pond of plain 
and acknowledged self-interestedness. As Mr. Hutton ob 
serves : " Mr. Spencer s theory appears to find the feeling of 
moral obligation at its maximum, when the perception of 
the quality which ultimately produces that feeling is at its 

But we must now do Mr. Darwin the justice to let him 
speak for himself, and for the only part of the Utilitarian 
theory for which he has made himself directly responsible ; 
though his whole argument is so obviously founded solely 
on an Utilitarian basis, that we are tempted to doubt 
whether a mind so large, so just and so candid, can have 
ever added to its treasures of physical science the thorough 
mastery of any of the great works in which the opposite 
system of ethics have been set forth. 

Animals display affection, fidelity and sympathy. Man 
when he first rose above the Ape was probably of a social 
disposition, and lived in herds. Mr. Darwin adds that he 
would probably inherit a tendency to be faithful to his com 
rades, and have also some capacity for self-command, and a 
readiness to aid and defend his fellow- men. 1 These latter 
qualities, we must observe, do not agree very well with 
what Mr. Gralton recently told us 2 of the result of his in 
teresting studies of the cattle of South Africa, and at all 
events need that we should suppose the forefathers of our 
race to have united all the best moral as well as physical 
qualities of other animals. But assuming that so it may 
have been, Mr. Darwin says, Man s next motive, acquired by 
sympathy, would be the love of praise and horror of infamy. 
After this, as such feelings became clearer and reason ad 
vanced, he would " feel himself impelled, independently of 
any pleasure or pain felt at the moment, to certain lines of 

1 Page 85. 2 Jfacmillan s Magazine, February, 1871. 


conduct. He may then say : I am the supreme judge of my 
own conduct ; and in the words of Kant, I will not in my 
own person violate the dignity of humanity." 1 That any 
savage or half- civilized man ever felt anything like this, or 
that the " dignity of humanity " could come in sight for 
endless generations of progress, conducted only in such ways 
as Mr. Darwin has suggested, nay, that it could ever occur 
at all to a creature who had not some higher conception of 
the nature of that Virtue in which man s only " dignity " 
consists, than Mr. Darwin has hinted, is a matter, I venture 
to think, of gravest doubt. 

But again passing onward, we reach the first of our 
author s special theories ; his doctrine of the nature of Re 
pentance. Earnestly I wish to do it justice; for upon it 
hinges our theory of the nature of the moral sense. As our 
bodily sense of feeling can best be studied when we touch 
hard objects or shrink from a burn or a blow, so our spiritual 
sense of feeling becomes most evident when it comes in con 
tact with wrong, or recoils in the agony of remorse from 
a crime. 

" Why " it is Mr. Darwin who asks the question " why 
should a man feel that he ought to obey one instinctive 
feeling rather than another ? Why does he bitterly regret 
if he has yielded to the strong sense of self-preservation, 
and has not risked his life to save that of a fellow-creature ?" 
The answer is, that in some cases the social or maternal 
instincts will always spur generous natures to unselfish 
deeds. But where such social instincts are less strong than 
the instincts of self-preservation, hunger, vengeance, etc., 
then these last are naturally paramount, and the question 
is pressed, " Why does man regret, even though he- may 
endeavour to banish any such regret, that he has followed 
the one natural impulse rather than the other? and why 


does he further feel that he ought to regret his conduct?" 
Man in this respect differs, Mr. Darwin admits, profoundly 
from the lower animals, but he thinks he sees the reason of 
the difference. It is this : Man has reflection. From the 
activity of his mental qualities, he cannot help past impres 
sions incessantly passing through his mind. The animals 
have no need to reflect ; for those who have social instincts 
never quit the herd, and never fail to obey their kindly 
impulses. But man, though he has the same or stronger 
social impulses, has other, though more, temporary passions, 
such as hunger, vengeance, and the like, which obtain tran 
sient indulgence often at the expense of his kind. These, 
however, are all temporary in their nature. When hunger, 
vengeance, covetousness, or the desire for preservation, has 
been satisfied, such feelings not only fade, but it is impos 
sible to recall their full vividness by an act of memory. 

" Thus as man cannot prevent old impressions from passing through 
his mind, he will be compelled to compare the weaker impression of, 
for instance, past hunger, or of vengeance satisfied, with the instinct 
of sympathy and goodwill to his fellows which is still present, and 
ever in some degree active in his mind. He will then feel in his 
imagination that a stronger instinct has yielded to one which now 
seems comparatively weak, and then that sense of dissatisfaction will 
inevitably be felt with which man is endowed, like every other animal, 
in order that his instincts may be obeyed." 

Leaving out for the present the last singular clause of 
this paragraph, which appears to point to a Cause altogether 
outside of the range of phenomena we are considering, a 
Cause which, if it (or HE ?) exist at all, may well " endow " 
human hearts more directly than through such dim animal 
instincts as are in question, leaving out of view this hint 
of a Creator, we ask: Is this physiology of Repentance true 
to fact ? It would be hard, I venture to think, to describe 
.one more at variance with it. The reader might be excused 

1 Page 90. 


who should figure to himself the author as a man who has 
never in his lifetime" had cause seriously to regret a single 
unkindly or ignoble deed, and who has unconsciously attri 
buted his own abnormally generous and placable nature to 
the rest of his species, and then theorized as if the world 
were made of Darwins. Where (we ask in bewilderment), 
where are the people to be found in whom. " sympathy and 
goodwill" to all their neighbours exist in the state of perma 
nent instincts, and whose resentful feelings, as a matter of 
course, die out after every little temporary exhibition, and 
leave them in charity with their enemies, not as the result 
of repentance, but as its preliminary ? Where, where 
may we find the population for whom the precept, " Love 
your enemies," is altogether superfluous, and who always 
revert to affection as soon as they have gratified any tran 
sient sentiment of an opposite tendency ? Hitherto we 
have been accustomed to believe that (as Buddhists are 
wont to insist) a kind action done to a foe is the surest way 
to enable ourselves to return to charitable feelings, and 
that, in like manner, doing him an ill- turn is calculated to 
exasperate our own rancour. We have held it as axiomatic 
that "revenge and wrong bring forth their kind ;" and that 
we hate those whom we have injured with an ever-growing 
spite and cruelty as we continue to give our malice head 
way. But instead of agreeing with Tacitus that " Humani 
generis proprium est odisse quern Iceseris," Mr. Darwin ac 
tually supposes that as soon as ever we have delivered our 
blow it is customary for us immediately to wish to wipe it 
off with a kiss ! In what Island of the Blessed do people 
love all the way round their social circles, the mean and 
the vulgar, the disgusting, and the tiresome, not excepted ? 
If such beings are entirely exceptional now, when the care 
ful husbandry of Christianity has been employed for eighteen 
centuries in cultivating that virtue of mansuetude, of which 


the ancient world produced so limited a crop, how is it to 
be supposed that our hirsute and tusky progenitors of the 
Paleolithic or yet remoter age, were thoroughly imbued 
with such gentle sentiments ? Let it be borne in mind 
that, unless the great majority of men, after injuring their 
neighbours, spontaneously turned to sympathize with them, 
there could not possibly be a chance for the foundation of a 
general sentiment such as Mr. Darwin supposes to grow up 
in the community. 

The natural history (so to speak) of Eepentance seems to 
indicate almost a converse process to that assumed by Mr. 
Darwin. Having done a wrong in word or deed to our 
neighbour, the first sentiment we distinguish afterwards is 
usually, I conceive, an accession of dislike towards him. 
Then after a time we become conscious of uneasiness, but 
rather in the way of feeling that we have broken the law in 
our own breasts and are ashamed of it, than that we pity 
the person we have injured or are sorry for him. On the 
contrary, if I am not mistaken, we are very apt to comfort 
ourselves at this stage of the proceedings by reflecting that 
he is a very odious person, who well deserves all he has got 
and worse ; and we are even tempted to add to our offence 
a little further evil speaking. Then comes the sense that we 
have really done wrong in the sight of God ; and last of all 
(as it seems to me), as the final climax, not the first step 
of repentance, we first undo or apologize for our wrong act, 
and then, and only then, return to the feeling of love and 

This whole theory, then, of the origin of Eepentance, 
namely, that it is the " innings " of our permanent social 
instincts when the transient selfish ones have played out 
their game, seems to be without basis on any known con 
dition of human nature. Ostensibly raised on induction, 
it lacks the primary facts from which its inductions profess 


to be drawn ; and Mr. Darwin, in offering it to us as the 
result of his studies in JSTatural History, seems to have 
betrayed that he has observed other species of animals more 
accurately than his own ; and that he has overlooked the 
vast class of intelligences which lie between baboons and 

The theory of the nature of Repentance which we have 
been considering, is a characteristic improvement on the 
current Utilitarian doctrine, in so far that it suggests a 
cause for the human tenderness, if I may so describe it, 
which forms one element in true repentance. If it were 
true of mankind in general (as it may be true of the most 
gentle individuals) that a return to sympathy and goodwill 
spontaneously follows, sooner or later, every unkind act, 
then Mr. Darwin s account of the case would supply us with 
an explanation of that side of the sentiment of repentance 
which is turned towards the person injured. It would still, 
I think, fail altogether to render an account of the mys 
terious awe and horror which the greater crimes have in all 
ages left on the minds of their perpetrators, far beyond any 
feelings of pity for the sufferers, and quite irrespective of 
fear of human justice or retaliation. This tremendous senti 
ment of Remorse, though it allies itself with religious fears, 
seems to me not so much to be derived from religious con 
siderations as to be in itself one of the roots of religion. 
The typical Orestes does not feel horror because he fears 
the Erinnyes, but he has called up the phantoms of the 
Erinnyes in the nightmare of his horror. Nothing which 
Mr. Darwin, or any other writer on his side, so far as I am 
aware., has ever suggested as the origin of the moral sense, 
has supplied us with a plausible explanation of either such 
Remorse or of ordinary Repentance. In the former case, 
we have soul-shaking terrors to be accounted for, either 
(according to Mr. Darwin) by mere pity and sympathy, or 


(according to the old Utilitarians) by fear of retaliation or 
disgrace, such as the sufferer often notoriously defies or even 
courts. In the case of ordinary Repentance, we have a feel 
ing infinitely sacred and tender, capable of transforming our 
whole nature as by an enchanter s wand, softening and re 
freshing our hearts as the dry and dusty earth is quickened 
by an April shower, but yet (we are asked to believe) caused 
by no higher sorcery, fallen from no loftier sky, than our 
own every -day instincts, one hour selfish and the next social, 
asserting themselves in wearisome alternation ! What is the 
right of one of these instincts as against the other, that its 
resumption of its temporary supremacy should be accom 
panied by such portents of solemn augury ? Why, when we 
return to love our neighbour, do we at the same time hate 
ourselves, and wish to do so still more ? Why, instead of 
shrinking from punishment, do men, under such impres 
sions, always desire to expiate their offences so fervently, 
that with the smallest sanction from their religious teachers 
they rush to the cloister or seize the scourge ? Why, above 
all, do we look inevitably beyond the fellow- creature whom 
we have injured up to God, and repeat the cry which has 
burst from every penitent heart for millenniums back, 
" Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned ! " 

Putting aside the obvious fact that the alleged cause of 
repentance could, at the utmost, only explain repentance 
for social wrong- doing, and leave inexplicable the equally 
bitter grief for personal offences, we find, then, that it fails 
even on its own ground. To make it meet approximately 
the facts of the case, we want something altogether different. 
We want to be told, not only why we feel sorry for our 
neighbour when we have wronged him, but how we come 
by the profound sense of a Justice which our wrong has 
infringed, and which we yet revere so humbly, that we often 
prefer to suffer that it may be vindicated. Of all this, the 


Utilitarian scheme, with Mr. Darwin s additions, affords not 
the vaguest indication. 

I cannot but think that, had any professed psychologist 
dealt thus with the mental phenomena which it was his 
business to explain, had he first assumed that we returned 
spontaneously to benevolent feelings after injuring our 
neighbours, and then presented such relenting as the essence 
of repentance, few readers would have failed to notice the 
disproportion between the unquestionable facts and their 
alleged cause. But when a great natural philosopher weaves 
mental phenomena into his general theory of physical de 
velopment, it is to be feared that many a student will 
hastily accept a doctrine which seems to fit neatly enough 
into the system which he adopts as a whole ; even though it 
could find on its own merits no admission into a scheme of 
psychology. The theory of Morals which alone ought to com 
mand our adhesion must surely be one, not like this harmo 
nizing only with one side of our philosophy, but equally 
true to all the facts of the case, whether we regard them 
from without or from within, whether we study Man, ab 
extra, as one animal amongst all the tribes of zoology, or 
from within by the experience of our own hearts. From 
the outside, it is obvious that the two human sentiments 
of Regret and Repentance may very easily be confounded. 
A theory which should account for Regret might be sup 
posed to cover the facts of Repentance, did no inward 
experience of the difference forbid us to accept it. But 
since Coleridge pointed out this loose link in the chain of 
Utilitarian argument, no disciple of the school has been 
able to mend it ; and even Mr. Darwin s theory only sup 
plies an hypothesis for the origin of relenting Pity, not 
one for Penitence. Let us suppose two simple cases : 
first, that in an accident at sea, while striving eagerly 
to help a friend, we had unfortunately caused his death ; 


second, that in the same contingency, an impulse of jealousy 
or anger had induced us purposely to withhold from him 
the means of safety. What would be our feelings in the 
two cases ? In the first, we should feel Regret which, how 
ever deep and poignant, would never be anything else than 
simple Regret, and which, if it assumed the slightest tinge 
of self-reproach, would be instantly rebuked by every sound- 
minded spectator as morbid and unhealthy. In the second 
case (assuming that we had perfect security against dis 
covery of our crime), we should feel, perhaps, very little 
Regret, but we should endure Remorse to the end of our 
days; we should carry about in our inner hearts a shadow 
of fear and misery and self-reproach which would make us 
evermore alone amid our fellows. Now, will Mr. Darwin, 
or any other thinker who traces the origin of the Moral 
Sense to the " agglutinated " experience of utility of a 
hundred generations, point out to us how that experience 
can possibly have bequeathed to us the latter sentiment 
of Remorse for a crime, as contra-distinguished from 
that of Regret for having unintentionally caused a mis 
fortune ? 

But if the origin of repentance, in the case of obvious 
capital injuries to our neighbour, cannot be accounted for 
merely as the result of ancestral experience, it appears 
still more impossible to account in the same way for the 
moral shame which attaches to many lesser offences, whose 
noxiousness is by no means self-evident, which no legis 
lation has ever made penal, and which few religions have 
condemned. Mr. Wallace, in his Contributions to the 
Theory of Natural Selection, appears to me to sum up 
this argument admirably. l After explaining how very 
inadequate are the Utilitarian sanctions for Truthfulness, 
and observing how many savages yet make veracity a point 

1 Page 355. 


of honour, lie says, " It is difficult to conceive that such 
an intense and mystical feeling of right and wrong (so 
intense as to overcome all ideas of personal advantage or 
utility) could have been developed out of accumulated 
ancestral experiences of utilit}^ ; but still more difficult to 
understand how feelings developed by one set of utilities 
could be transferred to acts of which the utility was partial, 
imaginary or absent," or (as he might justly have added) so 
remote as to be quite beyond the ken of uncivilized or semi- 
civilized man. It is no doubt a fact that, in the long run, 
Truthfulness contributes more than Lying to the Greatest 
Happiness of the Greatest Number. But to discover that 
fact needs a philosopher, not a savage. Other virtues, such 
as that of care for the weak and aged, seem still less 
capable, as Mr. Mivart has admirably shown, 1 of being 
evolved out of a sense of utility, seeing that savages and 
animals find it much the most useful practice to kill and 
devour such sufferers, and by the law of the Survival 
of the Fittest, all nature below civilized man is arranged 
on the plan of so doing. Mr. W. R. Greg s very clever 
paper in Fraser s Magazine, pointing out how Natural 
Selection fails in the case of Man in consequence of our 
feelings of pity for the weak, affords incidentally the best 
possible proof that human society is based on an element 
which has no counterpart in the utility which rules the 
animal world. 

It would be doing Mr. Darwin injustice if we were to 
quit the consideration of his observations on the nature 
of Repentance, leaving on the reader s mind the impression 
that he has put them forward formally as delineating an ex 
haustive theory of the matter, or that he has denied, other 
wise than by implication, the doctrine that higher and more 
spiritual influences enter into the phenomena of the moral 
1 Genesis of Species, page 192. 


life. The absence of the slightest allusion to any such higher 
sources of moral sentiment leaves, however, on the reader s 
mind a very strong impression that here we are supposed 
to rest. The developed Ape has acquired a moral sense by 
adaptive changes of mental structure precisely analogous 
to those adaptive changes of bodily structure which have 
altered his foot and rolled up his ear. To seek for a more 
recondite source for the one class of changes than for the 
other would be arbitrary and unphilosophical. 

But now we come to the last, and, as it seems to me, the 
saddest doctrine of all. Our moral sense, however acquired, 
does not, it is asserted, correspond to anything real outside 
of itself, to any law which must be the same for all Intelli 
gences, mundane or supernal. It merely affords us a sort 
of Ready Reckoner for our particular wages, a Rule of 
Thumb for our special work, in the position in which we 
find ourselves just at present. That I may do Mr. Darwin 
no injustice, I shall quote his observations on this point in 
his own words : 

" It may be well first to premise that I do not wish to maintain that 
any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as 
active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the 
same moral sense as ours. ... If, for instance, to take an extreme 
case, men were reared precisely under the same conditions as hive-bees, 
there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the 
worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers 
would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think 
of interfering. Nevertheless, the bee, or any other social animal, 
would in our supposed case gain, as it appears to me, some feeling 
of right and wrong, or a conscience. For each individual would have an 
inward sense of possessing certain stronger or more enduring instincts, 
and others less strong or enduring ; so that there would often be a 
struggle which impulse should be followed, and satisfaction or dissatis 
faction would be felt as past impressions were compared during their 
incessant passage through the mind. In this case, an inward monitor 
would tell the animal that it would have been better to have followed 


the one impulse rather than the other. The one course ought to have 
been followed. The one would have been right and the other wrong." 1 

Now it is a little difficult to clear our minds on this subject 
of the mutable or immutable in morals. No believer in 
the immutability of morality holds that it is any physical 
act itself which is immutably right, but only the principles 
of Benevolence, Truth, and so on, by which such acts must 
be judged. The parallel between Ethics and Geometry here 
holds strictly true. The axioms of both sciences are neces 
sary truths known to us as facts of consciousness. The 
subordinate propositions are deduced from such axioms by 
reflection. The application of the propositions to the actual 
circumstances of life is effected by a process (sometimes 
called " traduction ") by which all applied sciences become 
practically available. For example, Geometry teaches us that 
a triangle is equal to half a rectangle upon the same base and 
with the same altitude, but no geometry can teach us whether 
a certain field be a triangle with equal base and altitude 
to the adjoining rectangle. To know this we must measure 
both, and then we shall know that if such be their propor 
tions, the one will contain half as much space as the other. 
Similarly in morals, Intuition teaches us to " Love our 
Neighbour," and reflection will thence deduce that we ought 
to relieve the wants of the suffering. But no ethics can 
teach A what are the special wants of B, or how they can 
best be supplied. According, then, to the doctrines of In 
tuitive Morality, considerations of Utility have a most 
important, though altogether subordinate, place in ethics. 
It is the office of experience to show us how to put the 
mandates of intuition into execution, though not to originate 
our moral code, hoiv to fulfil the duty of conferring Happi 
ness, though not to set up Happiness as the sole end and 
aim of Morality. 

1 Descent of Man, pp. 33, 34. 


Now if Mr. Darwin had simply said that under totally 
different conditions of life many of the existing human 
duties would have been altered, we could have no possible 
fault to find with his remarks. In a world where nobody 
needed food there could be no duty of feeding the hungry ; 
in a world of immortals there could be no such crime as 
murder. Every alteration in circumstance produces a cer 
tain variation in moral obligation, for the plain reason (as 
above stated) that Morals only supply abstract principles, 
and, according to the circumstances of each case, their 
application must necessarily vary. If the triangular field 
have a rood cut off it, or a rood added on, it will no longer 
be the half of the rectangle beside it. It would not be 
difficult to imagine a state of existence in which the im 
mutable principles of Benevolence would require quite a 
different set of actions from those which they now demand ; 
in fact, no one supposes that among the Blessed, where 
they will rule all hearts, they will inspire the same manifes 
tations which they call for on earth. 

But Mr. Darwin s doctrine seems to imply something 
very different indeed from this. He thinks (if I do not 
mistake him) that, under altered circumstances, human 
beings would have acquired consciences in which not only 
the acts of social duty would have been different, but its 
principles would have been transformed or reversed. It is 
obviously impossible to stretch our conception of the prin 
ciple of Benevolence far enough to enable us to include 
under its possible manifestations the conduct of the worker 
bees to the drones ; and I suppose few of us have hitherto 
reflected on this and similar strange phenomena of natural 
history, without falling back with relief on the reflection 
that the animal, devoid of moral sense, does its destructive 
work as guiltlessly as the storm or the flood. 

On Mr. Darwin s system, the developed bee would have 


an " inward monitor " actually prompting the murderous 
sting, and telling her that such a course "ought to have 
been followed." The Dana ides of the hive, instead of the 
eternal nightmare to which Greek imagination consigned 
them, would thus receive the reward of their assassinations 
in the delights of the mens conscia recti ; or, as Mr. Darwin 
expresses it, by the satisfaction of " the stronger and more 
enduring instinct." Hitherto we have believed that the 
human moral sense, though of slow and gradual development 
and liable to sad oscillations under the influence of false reli 
gion and education, yet points normally to one true Pole. 
Now we are called on to think there is no pole at all, and 
that it may swing all round the circle of crimes and virtues, 
and be equally trustworthy whether it point north, south, 
east or west. In brief, there are no such things really as 
Right and Wrong ; and our idea that they have existence 
outside of our own poor little minds is pure delusion. 

The bearings of this doctrine on Morality and on Heligion 
seem to be equally fatal. The all-embracing Law which 
alone could command our reverence has. disappeared from 
the universe ; and God, if He exist, may, for aught we can 
surmise, have for Himself a code of Eight in which every 
cruelty and every injustice may form a part, quite as pro 
bably as the opposite principles. 

Does such an hypothesis . actually fit any of the known 
facts of human consciousness ? Is there anywhere to be 
found an indication of the supposed possibility of acquir 
ing a conscience in which the principles of Right and 
Wrong should be transformed, as well as their application 
altered ? It would seem (as already mentioned) that, as a 
matter of fact, the utility of destroying old people and 
female infants has actually appeared so great to many 
savage and semi- civilized people, as to have caused them to 
practise such murders in a systematic way for thousands of 


years. But we have never been told that the Fuegians 
made it more than a matter of good sense to eat their grand 
fathers, or that the Chinese, when they deposited their 
drowned babies in the public receptacles labelled "For 
Toothless Infants/ did so with the proud consciousness of 
fulfilling one of those time-hallowed Rites of which they are 
so fond. The transition from a sense of Utility to a sense 
of Moral Obligation seems to be one which has never 
yet been observed in human history. Mr. Darwin himself, 
with his unvarying candour, remarks that no instance is 
known of an arbitrary or superstitious practice, though 
pursued for ages, leaving hereditary tendencies of the nature 
of a moral sense. Of course where a religious sanction 
is believed to elevate any special act (such as Sabbath- 
keeping) into an express tribute of homage to God, it 
justly assumes in the conscience precisely the place such 
homage should occupy. But even here the world-old dis 
tinction between offences against such arbitrary laws, mala 
prohibita, and those against the eternal laws of morals, 
mala in se, has never been wholly overlooked. 

I think, then, we are justified in concluding that the 
moral history of mankind, so far as we know it, gives no 
countenance to the hypothesis that Conscience is the result 
of certain contingencies in our development, and that it 
might at an earlier stage have been moulded into quite 
another form, causing Good to appear to us Evil, and Evil 
Good. I think we have a right to say that the suggestions 
offered by the highest scientific intellects of our time, to 
account for its existence on principles which shall leave it 
on the level of other instincts, have failed to approve them 
selves as true to the facts of the case. And I think, there 
fore, that we are called on to believe still in the validity 
of our own moral consciousness, even as we believe in the 
validity of our other faculties, and to rest in the faith 


(well-nigh universal) of the human race, in a fixed and 
supreme Law of which the will of God is the embodiment, 
and Conscience the Divine transcript. I think that we may 
still repeat the hymn of Clean thes : 

" That our wills blended into Thine, 
Concurrent in the Law divine, 
Eternal, universal, just and good, 
Honouring and honoured in our servitude, 
Creation s Psean march may swell, 
The march of Law immutable, 
Wherein, as to its noblest end, 
All being doth for ever tend." 



THE history of Public Opinion during the last half century 
may be not inaptly compared to that of a well-fed, steady - 
going old roadster, long cherished by a respectable elderly 
squire, but unluckily transferred at his demise to his wild 
young heir. Accustomed to all the neighbouring highways, 
and trained to jog along them at five miles an hour, the poor 
beast suddenly found itself lashed by "the discipline of 
facts" and sundry new and cruel spurs, to get over the 
ground at double its wonted pace, and at last to leave the 
beaten tracks altogether and cut across country, over walls 
and hedges which it never so much as peeped over before. 
Under this altered regime it would appear that Public 
Opinion at first behaved with the restiveness which was to 
be expected. On some occasions he stood stock-still like a 
donkey, with his feet stretched out, refusing to budge an 
inch ; and anon he bolted and shied and took buck leaps into 
the air, rather than go the way which stern destiny ordained. 
But as time went on, such resistance naturally grew less 
violent. The plungings and rearings subsided by degrees, 
and anybody who now pays attention to the animal will 
probably be only led to observe that he is a little hard in the 
mouth and apt to refuse his fences till he has been brought 

1 Hereditary Genius. An Inquiry into its Laws and Consequences. By 
Francis Gallon, F.R.S. 1 vol. Svo. pp. 390. Macmillan. 1869. 

Psychologic Naturelle. Etude sur les Facultes Intellectuelles et Morales. Par 
Prosper Despine. 3 vols. Svo. Paris: F. Savy. 1868. 


up to them two or three times. In his equine way he finds 
each new discovery first "false" and then "against reli 
gion;" but at last he always makes a spring over it and 
knocks off the top stone with his hind feet : " Everybody 
knew it before ! " 

Had not this process of accustoming Public Opinion to a 
sharp pace and difficult leaps been going on for some time, it 
is to be believed that Mr. Gralton s book would have produced 
considerably more dismay and called forth more virtuous 
indignation than under present training has actually greeted 
it. We have had to modify our ideas of all things in heaven 
and earth so fast, that another shock even to our conceptions 
of the nature of our own individual minds and faculties, is 
not so terrible as it would once have been. We used first to 
think (or our fathers and grandfathers thought for us) that 
each of us, so far as our mental and moral parts were con 
cerned, were wholly fresh, isolated specimens of creative 
Power, "trailing clouds of glory," straight out of heaven. 
Then came the generation which believed in the omnipotence 
of education. Its creed was, that you had only to " catch 
your hare " or your child, and were he or she born bright or 
dull-witted, the offspring of two drunken tramps, or of a 
philosopher married to a poetess, it was all the same. It 
depended only on the care with which you trained it and 
crammed it with " useful knowledge" to make it a Cato and 
a Plato rolled into one. Grapes were to be had off thorns 
and figs off thistles with the utmost facility in the forcing- 
houses of Edgeworthian schools. It had, of course, been a 
hard matter to bring Public Opinion up to this point. The 
worthy old beast recalcitrated long, and when London 
University reared its head, the trophy of the First Educa 
tional Crusade, all the waggery left in England was thought 
to be displayed by dubbing it " Stinkomalee." But univer 
sity in town, and schools all over the country were over- 


leaped at last, and nobody for years afterwards so much as 
whispered a doubt that the Three Learned R s were sign 
posts on the high road to Utopia, "f / 

Then arose the brothers Combe to put in some wise words 
about physical, over and above mental, education. And 
somehow talking of physical education led to discussing 
hereditary physical qualities, and the " Constitution of Man" 
was admitted to be influenced in a certain measure by the 
heritage of his bodily organization. Children born of 
diseased and vicious parents, the philosopher insisted, ran a 
double chance of being themselves diseased and vicious, or 
even idiotic ; and sound conditions in father, mother, and 
nurse, had much to do, he thought, with similar good condi 
tions in their offspring and nursling. Strange to remember ! 
Ideas obvious and undeniable, as these appear to us, seemed 
nothing short of revolutionary when they first were pub 
lished ; and Public Opinion put back its ears and plunged 
and snorted at a terrible rate, ere, as usual, it went over them 
and " knew it all before." Nevertheless the inalienable 
right of diseased, deformed, and semi-idiotic married people 
to bring as many miserable children into the world as they 
please, is yet an article of national faith, which to question 
is the most direful of all heresies. 

But these three doctrines of mental and moral develop 
ment, the doctrines, namely, 1st, that we came straight 
down from heaven ; 2nd, that we could be educated into 
anything ; 3rd, that some of our physical peculiarities might 
be traced to inheritance, were all three kept pretty clear of 
meddlings with the Religious part of man. Experience, no 
doubt, showed sufficiently decisively that Piety was not a 
thing to be made to order, and that (at all events under the 
existing dispensation) there was no bespeaking little Samuels. 
The mysterious proclivity of children intended for such a 
vocation to turn out pickles, luckily coincided with or 


possibly had a share in originating the Calvinistic views of 
Arbitrary Election ; while even the Arminians of those days 
would have vehemently repudiated either the notion that 
a man might inherit a pious disposition just as well as a 
tendency to the gout, or that he would be likely to find the 
true route to Paradise among other items of Useful Know 
ledge in the Penny Magazine. 

Now it seems we are trotting up to another fence, vide 
licet, the doctrine that all man s faculties and qualities, 
physical, mental, moral and religious, have a certain given 
relation to the conditions of his birth. The hereditarj^ 
element in him, that element of which we have hitherto 
entertained the vaguest ideas, admitting it in his features 
and diseases, and ignoring it in his genius and his passions ; 
recognizing it in noble races as a source of pride, and for 
getting it as the extenuation of the faults of degraded ones, 
this mysterious element must, we are told, henceforth 
challenge a place in all our calculations. We must learn to 
trace it equally in every department of our nature ; and no 
analysis of character can be held valid which has not 
weighed it with such accuracy as may be attainable. Our 
gauge of moral responsibility must make large allowance for 
the good or evil tendencies inherited by saint or sinner, and 
our whole theory of the meaning and scope of Education 
must rise from the crude delusion that it is in our power 
wholly to transform any individual child, to embrace the 
vaster but remoter possibilities of gradually training suc 
cessive generations into higher intelligence and more com 
plete self-control, till the tendencies towards brute vice grow 
weaker and expire, and " the heir of all the ages " shall 
be born with only healthful instincts and lofty aspirations. 

As always happens when a new truth is to be discovered, 
there have been f or esh ado wings of this doctrine for some 
years back. The hereditary qualities of Races of men have 


occupied large room in our discussions. The awful phe 
nomena of inherited criminal propensities have interested 
not only physicians (like the writer of the second book at 
the head of our paper), but philosophic novelists like the 
author of " Elsie Venner." Under the enormous impetus 
given to all speculations concerning descent by Mr. Darwin, 
some applications of the doctrine of development to the 
mind as well as body of man became inevitable, and a most 
remarkable article in Fra&er s Magazine, Oct. 1868, brought 
to light a variety of unobserved facts regarding the " Failure 
of Natural Selection in the case of Man," due to the special 
tendencies of our civilization. Mr. Galton himself, five or 
six years ago, published in Macmillan s Magazine the results 
of his preliminary inquiries as to inherited ability in the 
legal profession ; and Professor Tyndall perhaps gave the 
most remarkable hint of all, by ascribing the " baby-love " 
of women to the " set of the molecules of the brain " through 
a thousand generations of mothers exercised in the same 

But the work which has finally afforded fixed ground to 
these floating speculations, and, in the humble judgment of 
the present writer, inaugurated a new science with a great 
future before it, is Mr. Gralton s "Essay on Hereditary 
Genius." The few errors of detail into which the author 
has fallen in the wide and untrodden field he has attempted 
to map out, and his easily explicable tendency to give undue 
weight to disputable indications, and to treat a man s attain 
ment of high office as equivalent to proof of his fitness for 
it, these weak points, on which the reviewers have fastened 
with their usual bull-dog tenacity, cannot eventually influence 
the acceptance of the immense mass of evidence adduced 
to prove the main theses of the work, or bar our admira 
tion of its great originality. I do not propose in the ensuing 
pages to give a general notice of the work, or to mark 


either all the principles which I conceive Mr. Galton has 
established, nor those others on which I should venture to 
differ from him. His main doctrine he has, I believe, 
demonstrated with mathematical certainty, viz., that all 
mental faculties, from the most ordinary to the highest and 
apparently most erratic forms of genius, the various gifts 
of the statesman, soldier, artist and man of letters, are 
distributed according to conditions among which inheritance 
by descent of blood occupies the foremost place ; and that 
there is no such thing in the order of nature as a mighty 
genius who should be an intellectual Melchisedek. 

The further deductions which Mr. Galton draws appear 
to me curious and suggestive in the extreme ; as, for ex 
ample, the calculation of the proportion now obtaining 
in Europe of Eminent Men to the general population ; 
and, again, of the far rarer Illustrious Men to those of 
ordinary eminence. Based on this calculation, the number 
of both illustrious and eminent men who flourished among 
the 135,000 free citizens of Attica during the age of 
Pericles, is so nearly miraculous, that we find it hard 
to picture such an intellectual feast as life must then 
have offered. Society at Athens in those days must have 
surpassed that of the choicest circles of Paris and London 
now, as these are superior to the ale-house gossipings of 
George Eliot s rustics. That populace for whose eye Phidias 
chiselled, those play- goers for whose taste Sophocles and 
Aristophanes provided entertainment, that "jeunesse doree" 
whose daily lounge involved an argument with Socrates 
what were they all ? What rain of heaven had watered the 
human tree when it bore such fruit in such profusion ? 
And what hope may remain that it will ever bring them 
forth in such clusters once more ? 

Again, a flood of light is poured on the degeneracy of 
mediaeval Europe by Mr. Galton s observations concerning 


the celibacy of the clergy and the monastic orders. The 
moment when, as Mr. Lecky shows, chastity (understood to 
mean celibacy) was elevated into the sublimest of Chris 
tian virtues, that moment the chance that any man should 
perpetuate his race became calculable in the inverse ratio 
of his piety and goodness. Archbishop Whately long ago 
exposed the absurdity of the common boast of Catholics 
concerning the learning and virtue hidden in the monasteries 
during the Dark Ages. It would be equally reasonable to 
take the lamps and candles out of every room in a house 
and deposit them in the coal-cellar, and then call the 
passers-by to remark how gloomy were the library and 
drawing-room, how beautifully illuminated the coal-hole ! 
But Mr. Galton points out that the evil of the ascetic 
system was immeasurably wider and more enduring in its 
results even than the subtraction for generation after 
generation of the brightest minds and gentlest hearts 
from the world . which so grievously needed them. Ac 
cording to the laws of hereditary descent, it was the whole 
future human race which was being cruelly spoiled of its 
fairest hopes, its best chances of enjoying the services of 
genius and of true saintship. Some of those who read 
these pages may remember in the first Great Exhibition a 
set of samples of what was called " Pedigree "Wheat." The 
gigantic ears, loaded with double-sized seeds, were simply 
the result of ten years successive selection of the finest ears, 
and again the finest in each crop. The process which 
Romanism effected for the human race was precisely and 
accurately the converse of that by which this Pedigree 
Wheat w r as obtained. It simply cut off each stem which 
rose above the average in mental or moral gifts. The 
moment a man or a woman showed signs of being some 
thing better than a clod, a little more disposed for learning, 
a little more gentle-natured, more pious or more charitable, 


instantly lie or she was induced to take the vow never to 
become a parent ; and only by the infraction of such vows was 
there a chance for the world of an heir to his or her virtues. 
The best-born man among us now living, if he could trace 
out the million or so of his ancestors contemporary twenty 
generations ago, would hardly find among them a single 
person mentally distinguished in any way. We are all 
the descendants of the caterans and hunters, the serfs and 
boors of a thousand years. The better and greater men born 
in the same ages hid their light under a bushel while they 
lived, and took care that it should not be rekindled after 
their death. When the Reformation came, the case was 
even worse ; for then the ablest, the bravest and the truest- 
hearted, were picked out for slaughter. The human tares 
were left to flourish and reproduce their kind abundantly, 
but the wheat was gathered in bundles to be burnt. To 
this hour France feels the loss of Huguenot blood (so 
strangely vigorous wherever it has been scattered !), and 
Spain halts for ever under the paralysis of half her motor 
nerves, cut off by the Inquisition. 

Besides these discussions, Mr. Gralton s book is full of 
suggestive and original ideas concerning the results of mar 
riages with heiresses, concerning the influence of able 
mothers on their sons, concerning the choice of wives by 
gifted men, and, finally, concerning the application of Mr. 
Darwin s hypothesis of Pangenesis to human inheritance 
of special qualities. Of these topics nothing can here be 
said, though against some of them I would fain enter my 
expression of dissent. There remains not more than space 
enough to discuss the branch of Mr. Galton s subject which 
properly falls under the notice of a Theological Review, viz., 
the statistics he has collected concerning Divines. 

It was not a little mischievous of Mr. Galton to preface 
his investigations about the families of pious men, by 


quoting Psalms cxxviii. 3, cxiii. 9, xxv. 13, and then inno 
cently asking whether the wives of Christian divines have 
any special resemblance to " fruitful vines/ or their children 
to " olive-branches ; " and whether, on the whole, their 
seed does " inherit the land " in any noticeable manner. 
Certainly, on the one hand, almost every one of us would 
be ready to assure the inquirer that, to the best of our 
persuasion, curates with small salaries have larger fami 
lies than men of any other profession ; and that " Mrs. 
Quiverfull " was, and could only be, according to the natural 
fitness of things, a poor clergyman s wife. But then, per 
contra, our author is evidently unprepared to admit that 
the unbeneficed clergy of the National Church have a 
monopoly of piety, or that we ought to look among them 
especially for the fruits of the first part of the patriarchal 
benediction ; while it is manifest that the second blessing, 
namely, the "inheriting of the land," falls much more 
richly on the profane generation of the squirearchy. 

Mr. Galton says he finds two conflicting theories afloat 
on this matter. The first is, that there is a special good 
providence for the children of the godly. The second is, 
that the sons of religious persons mostly turn out excep 
tionally ill. He proceeds to inquire carefully what light 
statistics can throw on these views, and whether both of 
them must not yield to the ordinary law of heredity as 
ruling in other spheres of human activity. 

It was not an easy matter to settle at starting what 
qualification should entitle a man to be reckoned among 
the eminently pious. Obviously Roman Catholic saints 
were out of the running, owing to the fatal law of celibacy, 
whereby fruitful vines and numerous olive-branches are 
allowed only to decorate the houses of persons who followed 
not " counsels of perfection." Protestants, on the other 
hand, have rarely been able to see all the merits of men of 


different opinions from their own. The name of Laud has 
not a sweet savour in Evangelical nostrils ; while the 
Ritualist Dr. Littledale talks unconcernedly of those "scoun 
drels," the martyrs Hooper and Latimer. Nevertheless, 
Mr. Galton has happily got over his difficulty through an 
excellent collection " Middleton s Biographia Evangelica," 
published in 4 vols. in 1786, and containing 196 picked lives 
of Protestant saints, from the Reformation downwards. Our 
author subjects these biographies to sharp analysis, and the 
following are the conclusions which he deduces from them. 

These 196 Protestant saints were no canting humbugs. 
They were for the greater part men of exceedingly noble 
characters. Twenty-two of them were martyrs. They had 
considerable intellectual gifts. None of them are reported 
to have had sinful parents ; and out of the last 100 (whose 
relations alone are traceable), 41 had pious fathers or mothers. 
Their social condition was of every rank, from the highest 
to the lowest. Only one-half were married men, and of these 
the wives were mostly very pious. The number of their 
children was a trifle below the average. No families of 
importance in England are traceable to divines as founders, 
except those of Lord Sandys and of the Hookers, the 
famous botanists, who are the lineal descendants of the 
author of the Ecclesiastical Polity. As regards health, the 
constitution of most of the divines was remarkably bad. 
Sickly lads are apt to be more studious than robust ones, 
and the weakly students who arrived at manhood chiefly 
recruited the band of divines. Among these semi-invalids 
were Calvin, Melancthon, George Herbert, Baxter, and 
Philip Henry. Reading the lives of eminent lawyers and 
statesmen, one is struck by the number of them who have 
had constitutions of iron ; but out of all Middleton s 196 
divines, he only speaks of 12 or 13 as vigorous. Out of 
these, 5 or 6 were wild in their youth and reformed in 


later years; while only 3 or 4 of the other divines were 
ever addicted to dissipated habits. Seventeen out of the 
196 were inter-related, and 8 more had other pious con 
nexions. The influence of inheritance of character through 
the female line is much greater in the case of divines than 
in that of any other eminent men ; an influence Mr. Galton 
attributes to the utility, in their case, of a " blind conviction 
which can best be obtained through maternal teaching in 

These results, as Mr. Galton would no doubt readily 
admit, might be liable to considerable modification, could 
we extend our field of operations over double or treble the 
number of instances of piety, and especially if we could in 
clude types of piety from other creeds and a greater variety 
of nations. Taken as it is, however, as the outcome of an 
inquiry based on freely gathered specimens of Protestant 
religious eminence, it appears to convey one of the most 
curious morals ever presented by an historical investigation. 
A true Christian has been often defined as "the highest 
kind of man," and Mr. Galton himself avows that these 
subjects of his anatomy were " exceedingly noble characters." 
And yet he is forced to pronounce with equal decision from 
the evidence before him, that they were mostly a tribe of 
valetudinarians; that there must exist "a correlation between 
an unusually devout disposition and a weak constitution ; " 
that " a gently complaining and fatigued spirit is that in 
which Evangelical divines are apt to pass their days ; " and, 
finally, that " we are compelled to conclude that robustness 
of constitution is antagonistic in a very marked degree to 
an extremely pious disposition " ! 

There are no doubt still surviving in the world a good 
many people who will find in these conclusions of Mr. 
Galton s nothing to shock their conceptions of what ought 
to be the causes, tenor and temper of a religious life. There 


are those who still repeat, with Cowper, that this world is, 
and ought to be, a Vale of Tears, and that a very proper 
way to view our position therein is to liken ourselves to 
" crowded forest -trees, marked to fall." To such persons, 
no doubt, it is natural to pass through the varied joys and 
interests of youth, manhood and old age, plaintively ob 
serving to all whom it may concern, that they 

Drag the dull remains of life 
Along the tiresome road. 

But these worthy people have certainly been in a minority 
for the last twenty years, since the Psalm of Life took de 
finitively the place of the lugubrious " Stanzas subjoined to 
the Bills of Mortality." And to us in our day it is un 
doubtedly somewhat of a blow to be told that Religion, 
instead of being (as the old Hebrews believed) the correlative 
of health and cheerfulness and length of years, is, on the 
contrary, near akin to disease ; and that he among men whom, 
the Creator has blessed with the soundest body and coolest 
brain, is, by some fiendish fatality, the least likely of all to 
give his heart to Gfod or devote his manly strength to His 
cause. The Glorious Company of the Apostles is reduced to 
a band of invalids, and the Noble Army of Martyrs is all on 
the sick list ! 

Is this true ? Shall we sit down quietly under this dic 
tum of Mr. Galton s, and agree for the future to consider 
health and piety as mutually antagonistic ? For my own 
part, I must confess that if facts really drove me to such a 
conclusion, I should be inclined to say, with the French 
philosopher contradicted in his theories, " Eh bien, mes 
sieurs ! tant pis pour les faits ! " No statistics should lash 
my (private) opinion over that six- barred gate. But are we 
reallv driven to such straits at all ? It seems to me that 
Mr. Gralton s own words give us the key to the whole mys 
tery, and to a very important truth beside. He tells us at 


starting that though Middleton assures the reader that no 
bigoted partiality rules his selection of divines, yet that " it 
is easy to see his leaning is strongly towards the Calvin- 
ists." His 196 picked men are chosen (honestly enough, 
no doubt) from the churches in which more or less closely 
the Evangelical type of piety was adhered to as the stan 
dard of holiness. No Unitarian or Latitudinarian, no Deist 
or Freethinker, had a chance of admission into his lists. 
We have thus 196 specimens of the plants reared in the 
peculiar hot-beds of the dominant Protestantism of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Let us take them, 
then, by all means, and reason on them as excellent exam 
ples, 1st, of the persons on whom that creed was calculated 
to fasten ; and, 2ndly, of what really fine characters it was 
able to form. But do not let us be misled for a moment 
into the use of generalizations implying that it is "piety" 
pur et simple, piety as it must always be, or always ought 
to be, which is intrinsically " unsuited to a robust consti 
tution/ and specially calculated to take root in a sickly 
one. Do not let us rest content with the picture of "the 
gently complaining and fatigued spirit," as if it were the 
normal spirit of any other pious folk than those of the 
orthodox persuasion. 

And, again, does not this remarkable fact discovered by 
Mr. Galton, namely, the physical sickliness attendant on 
the prevalent forms of Christian piety, let in some light on 
the fact which has been so often noticed, but so little 
explained, namely, the lack of manliness among clergymen, 
bishops and " professors " at large ? If the phenomenon 
were not so familiar, it would surely be the most astonish 
ing in the world, that the preachers of religion and morality 
should be as a body less straightforward, less simple, less 
brave, than other men. When a clergyman twaddles and 
cants and equivocates ; or when one Bishop " chalks up Free 


Thought and runs away;" or another talks blasphemously 
of "The Voice" guiding him to exchange a poor and pro 
vincial See for a rich one with a good town -house ; or, 
finally, when " eminent saints " prove dishonest bankers, 
how is it that we do not all wring our hands and cry that 
the heavens are falling ? Why do we only nod our heads 
lugubriously and observe, " "What a different sort of man is 
the Rev. A. B. s brother, Captain C. D., of the Navy, or 
Colonel E. F., of the th Dragoons ! " or, " How the episco 
pal apron transforms a man into an old woman ! " or, " How 
very dangerous it is to have dealings with the saints ! " l 

Things like these ought to strike us dumb with amaze 
ment and horror, had not experience hardened us to a vague 
anticipation of a correlation between an extraordinary dis 
play of Christian sentiment and a proportionate lack of the 
element of manly honesty and courage. Without forrnu- 
larizing our ideas on the matter, there are few of us who, 
if we were attacked by robbers in a house with a saintly 
clergyman upstairs and a profane man of the world below, 
would not rush first to seek our defender in the lower story. 
Again, in matters of veracity, to whose recommendation of a 
servant or a teacher do we attach most value that of the 
pious vicar of the parish, or that of the fox-hunting squire ? 
Not to pursue these illustrations further, I think my position 
will be hardly gainsaid if I assert that, while the theo 
logical virtues, faith, hope, charity, purity, and resignation, 
flourish abundantly in the vineyard of the Church, the 
merely moral virtues, courage, fortitude, honesty, generosity 
and veracity, are found to grow more vigorously elsewhere. 
It is not of course maintained that either side of the wall 

1 We have heard an authentic story of a clergyman who, being present at a 
prayer-meeting at which Sir John Dean Paul engaged in devotion, immediately 
afterwards rushed up to town and drew all his money out of the too pious 
banker s hands ! 


lias a monopoly of either class of virtues ; but that the 
priestly or evangelical character has a tendency to form 
a distinct type of its own ; and that in that type there is 
a preponderance of the more fragile and feeble virtues, 
and a corresponding deficiency in those which are healthy, 
robust and masculine. " Muscular Christianity" is a modern 
innovation, a hazardous and not over- successful attempt 
to combine physical vigour and spiritual devotion ; and the 
very convulsiveness of the efforts of its apostles to achieve 
such a harmony affords the best possible proof of how 
widely apart to all our apprehensions had previously been 
" Muscularity" and " Christianity." 

But all these remarks apply to what has hitherto passed 
muster as the received type of piety, and not by any means 
to Piety in the abstract apart from its orthodox colouring. 
The unmanliness belongs wholly to the mould, and not to 
the thing moulded. No man has ever yet felt himself, or 
been felt by others to be, less manly because in public or in 
private he has professed his faith in God and his allegiance 
towards Him. The noblest line perhaps in all French 
poetry is that which Racine puts into the mouth of the 
Jewish High-priest, 

" Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n ai point d autre crainte." 

It must be admitted that the same cannot be said of the 
profession of belief in sundry doctrines of orthodoxy. The 
urgency of a man s dread of hell-fire, his anxiety to obtain 
the benefits of the Atonement, and his undisguised rejoicing 
that " Christ his Passover is slain for him," are none of 
them sentiments to which we attach the character of man 
liness or generosity. 

Perhaps there is no point on which the religion of the 
future is so certain to differ from that of the past, as in its 
comparative healthfulness of spirit. And just as a sickly 




creed, full of dreadful threats and mystic ways of expiation, 
appealed to minds more or less morbidly constituted, so it 
is to be believed that a thoroughly healthy and manly 
creed will harmonize no less distinctly with natures happy, 
healthful and normally developed. 

From this branch of the subject we pass to a most 
curious and original analysis which Mr. Galton has made 
of what he considers the typical religious character. It 
must be premised that in another part of his book he has 
broached the doctrine, that the sense of incompleteness and 
imperfection which theologians define to be the sense of 
Original Sin, is probably only our vague sense that we are 
as yet not thoroughly trained to the conditions of civilized 
life in which we find ourselves, and that there yet remains 
in us too much of the wild beast, or at least of the hunter 
and the nomad, to accommodate ourselves perfectly with the 
polished forms of life in our age and country. " The sense 
of original sin," he says, 1 "would show, according to my 
theory, not that man was fallen from a high estate, but 
that he was rising in moral culture with more rapidity than 
the nature of his race could follow." Generations hence, 
when civilization has thoroughly done its work, and the 
instincts of sudden passion and unreasoning selfishness and 
impatience of law and rule have died out of the whole 
human family, then we may expect the vague sense of 
imperfection and guilt to die out too. We are, if I may 
venture to suggest the simile to Mr. Galton, at the present 
day much in the condition of that unhappy bird, the Apteryx. 
Through long ages of gradual disuse of flying, our wings 
have grown smaller and weaker, so that if we desired to 
return to the habits of our remote progenitors, we should 
infallibly come to the ground. But the vestiges of the 
pinions are still there, more or less hidden under our 

1 Page 350. 


plumage, and so long as they are to be felt, we cannot help 
flapping them sometimes and pining for a flight. The dis 
covery that we can neither be happy flying or walking, 
barbarous or civilized, constitutes the grand discontent of 
life. The sense that we are always inclined to make flaps 
and flights and fall on our beaks in the dust, is the natural 
element in Original Sin. 

On this very singular idea Mr. Galton evidently proceeds, 
in the part of his book under present consideration, to 
define what he deems to be the typical Religious Character. 
He holds that its chief feature is its conscious moral insta 
bility. It is the conjunction of warm affections and high 
aspirations with frequent failures and downfalls, which 
makes a man alike sensible of his own frailty and inclined 
to rely on the serene Strength which he believes rules 
above him. The religious man is " liable to extremes ; now 
swinging forwards into regions of enthusiasm, now back 
wards into those of sensuality and selfishness." David, in 
fact, the David who both slew Uriah and wrote the peni 
tential psalms, is the eternal type of the godly man ; and 
it is much more easy to find Davids among semi-civilized 
Judaean shepherds or Negroes or Celts than among long 
civilized races such as the Chinese. 

With this religious type Mr. Galton contrasts the ideal 
Sceptic, and concludes that the differences of character 
which in the one case make a man happy in the belief in 
a Divine Guide and Father, and in the other, content in a 
mental state tantamount to Atheism, must needs lie in 
this, that while the Religious man is conscious of his in 
firmity of will and instability of resolution, insomuch that 
he needs the thought of God for his support, the Sceptic, 
on the contrary, is sufficiently sure of himself and confident 
in his own self- guidance to feel comparatively no such need 
for external aid, and to be able without pain to stifle any 


instinctive longings for a Divine Protector which may arise 
in his heart. In other words, as Religion had been pre 
viously found to be correlated with a feeble physical con 
stitution, so here it is identified with a moral constitution 
feverish, vacillating and incapable of self-reliance. The 
sceptic, on the contrary, is no longer to be looked on, as we 
had pictured him, as a man in whom the moral nature never 
rises to the spring-tide where its waves break at the feet of 
Gfod. He is the exalted being whose whole moral and 
intellectual economy is in such perfect balance and harmony, 
that he can say with Heine, " I am no longer a child. I do 
not need any more a Heavenly Father." 

These views, which Mr. Galton has by no means illus 
trated in the above manner, but which I think I do him no 
injustice in so translating, are, in my humble judgment, 
among the most original and striking of any of the theories 
propounded on these subjects for many a day. That there 
is a considerable element of truth in them, I must heartily 
acknowledge, albeit I would read it in a somewhat different 
sense from Mr. Galton. The impulsive temperament is 
beyond question by far the most genuinely religious tem 
perament. The calm, cold, prudential nature, when it adopts 
religion, does so as an additional precaution of prudence, 
and is " other- worldly " neither more nor less than it is 
worldly. Real, spontaneous, self- forgetful religion, springs 
and flourishes in the heart which is swayed by feeling, not 
by interest. Nay, more : the sense of Sin, which is the 
deepest part of all true piety is (we cannot doubt) far more 
vivid in natures wherein much of the wild, untamed human 
being still survives, which are swayed alternately by oppo 
site motives, and are yet far from having been so disciplined 
and moulded in the school of the world as to be mere 
civilized machines. Probably it has happened to all of us 
at some time or other to wish that we could see some self- 


satisfied paragon of steadiness and respectability fall for 
once into some disgraceful fault, get drunk, or swear, or do 
something which should shake him out of his self-conceit, 
and give him a chance to learn that Religion and Pharisaism 
are not convertible terms. Many of us also must have 
watched the deplorable delusion of some originally good and 
always well-balanced character, in which, as there seems 
no need for self-restraint, no self-restraint is ever tried, and 
amiability lapses into self-indulgence, and self-indulgence 
into selfishness, and selfishness into hypocrisy and hardness 
of heart. 

On the other hand, the permanent Sceptic is probably 
equally fairly described as a man who has not only made 
up his mind to the intellectual conclusion that there is 
nothing to be known about God, but also has reconciled his 
heart to the lack of religious supports and consolations 
through the help of a sturdy self-reliance. Either he is a 
sinner without any particular shame or hatred for his sin ; 
or, as oftener happens, he is of so passionless a temperament, 
so prudent and well-balanced a constitution, that he recog 
nizes few sins to repent of in the past, and knows that no 
serious temptation is likely to overmaster him in the future. 
In every case, the double sense of self-abasement and self- 
mistrust are absent. He has 110 need to be reconciled with 
himself, so he feels no need of being reconciled with God. 
He walks firmly along a certain broad and beaten path of 
ordinary honesty, justice, and sobriety, without toiling up 
celestial heights in the pursuit of love and faith and purity ; 
and for his own road, and so far as he means to travel, he 
calls for no angels to bear him on their wings. 

Lastly, it is easy to verify the fact, that these tempera 
ments correspond in their main outlines to the races and 
sexes in which religion and scepticism are each most fre 
quently developed. The impulsive races of mankind, the 


Southern nations of Europe, are more inclined to religion 
and less to incredulity than those of the North. The un 
stable Celt is more pious, whether he be Catholic in Ireland 
or Methodist in "Wales, than the steady-going, law-abiding 
Saxon of any denomination. And, finally, women are more 
religious than men, while displaying usually more vacilla 
tion of the will and (probably in most cases) higher as 
pirations after ideal holiness and purity. 

What is now to be our conclusion respecting Mr. Galton s 
theory of the Origin of Piety ? We have seen, in the first 
instance, that he identifies it with a sickly physical consti 
tution, and I ventured so far to correct this result as to 
substitute for Piety in general, Piety in the particular form 
of Evangelical Christianity. I pointed out that it was 
only from among Evangelical Divines that the premisses 
of his argument had been taken, and that there was a very 
strong presumption that Piety equally deep and true, but 
of an opposite type, would, on experience, be found to show 
a no less marked affinity for those " robust constitutions " 
wherein the orthodox seed finds an ungenial soil. 

In the present case, we have to decide whether we can 
admit Mr. Galton s second correlation of Piety with moral 
instability of purpose. In my opinion, we may rightly 
trace in this case a relation between all true types of piety 
and such instability, provided that we interpret the insta 
bility to consist, not in an unusual degree of frailty in acting 
up to a mediocre standard of virtue, not in having merely, 
as he avers, a greater " amplitude of moral oscillations than 
other men of equal average position," but in a necessarily 
imperfect attempt to act up to a standard higher than that 
commonly received, and for which the man (to apply Mr. 
Galton s system) has not been sufficiently highly bred. 

What, then, is the bearing of our admission as regards 
this matter ? It is tantamount only to this : that the tern- 


perament which contains the noblest elements and aspires 
highest, even if it fall lowest, is also the nature on which 
the crowning glory of the love of God most often descends. 
Just as Longinus decides that the greatest poem is not 
the one which longest sustains an even flight, but the one 
which ever and anon soars into the highest empyrean, even 
so the man who in his highest moments rises highest is 
truly the greatest man. It is he who, though his nature 
be a very chaos of passions a den of wild beasts, as many 
of the saints have spoken of their own souls yet has in 
him longings and strivings and yearnings after the Holy 
and the Perfect ; it is he who is not only naturally predis 
posed to piety, but worthy to know the joy of religion. Out 
of such stuff demi-gods are made. Out of well-ordered, 
prudent, self-reliant sceptics, men of the world are made, 
and nothing more. 

It is, I apprehend, a definite and very valuable acquisition 
to psychology, to recognize that it is not by accident, but 
natural law, that the characters wherein flesh and spirit do 
hardest battle, and Apollyon not seldom gains temporary 
advantage, are yet precisely those who are " bound for the 
Celestial City." Mr. Worldly- Wiseman never descends into 
the Yalley of Humiliation ; but neither does he ever climb the 
Delectable Mountains nor push through the Golden Gates. 

With regard to the hereditary descent of religious as well 
as other qualities, Mr. Galton developes his theory in the 
following manner. Starting on the assumption that the 
typical religious man is one who combines high moral gifts 
with instability of character, it is obvious that if one of the 
two elements whose combination makes the parent s piety 
is separately inherited by the son, an opposite result will 
appear. If the son s heritage " consist of the moral gifts 
without the instability, he will not feel the need of extreme 


piety," and may become Mr. Gallon s ideal sceptic. " If he 
inherit great instability without morality, he may very pro 
bably disgrace his name." Only in the third contingency, 
namely, that of the son inheriting both the father s qualities, 
is there any security for his following in the parental steps. 

Thus we have an explanation more or less satisfactory 
of the double phenomenon, that there is such a thing as 
hereditary piety, and that there is also an occasional (though 
I hardly think a very common) tendency for the sons of a 
really religious man to turn out either sceptics or repro 
bates. So far as my judgment goes, I should say that the 
common disposition of children is to share in a very marked 
manner the emotional religious constitutions of their parents, 
and that this is only counteracted when piety is presented to 
them in so repulsive a shape, as to provoke the over-lectured 
"little Samuels" into rebellion. There are two facts connected 
with such heritage which must have forced themselves on 
the attention of all my readers. One of them falls in with 
Mr. Gallon s theories of heredity, but the other must needs 
be explained by reference to post-natal influences. The first 
is the tendency of strong religious feeling to pervade whole 
families. The second is the equally strong tendency of the 
different members of such religious families to adopt different 
creeds and types of piety from one another, insomuch that 
the sympathy which ought to have united them in closer 
bonds than other households is too often converted into a 
source of dissensions. 

These two facts will, I think, be disputed by few observers. 
All of us are acquainted with families in which no vehement 
warmth of religion has ever shown itself, and in which, 
according to Evangelical language, "conversions" never take 
place. Again, we all know, personally, a few, and by report 
a great many families, where for successive generations there 
are men and women of either saintly piety or fanatic zeal. 


As Hindoos would say, there are Brahmin races in which 
twice-born men are found, and Kshatriyas and Soodras in 
which the phenomenon of regeneration never occurs. 

This remarkable fact may, of course, be explained doubly. 
There is the hereditary tendency to the religious constitution ; 
and there are all the thousand circumstances of youthful im 
pression likely to bring that tendency into action. Family 
traditions of deeds and words, family pictures, and of course 
family habits of devotion, where these are maintained, are 
incentives of incalculable weight. It would be hard for the 
present writer to define how much of her own earlier feelings 
on such matters were due to a handful of books of the 
Fenelon school of devotion, left by chance in an old library, 
the property of a long dead ancestress. 

But if the fact of hereditary piety be easily explicable, 
who is to explain to us the mystery of the radiation in 
opposite directions of the theological compass, so frequently 
witnessed in the sons and daughters of these particular 
homes ? Do we see in an Evangelical family one son become 
a Roman Catholic ? Then, ten to one, another will ere 
long avow himself an Unitarian. Does sister A enter an 
Anglican convent ? Then brother B will probably become 
a Plymouth brother ; while C, having gone through a dozen 
phases of faith, will settle finally in Theism. 

It seems to be a law, that though the predisposition to piety 
may be conveyed by our parents both by blood and education, 
yet the awakening to strong spiritual life rarely or never 
happens under their influence, or that of any one altogether 
familiar with us. The spark must be kindled by a more dis 
tant torch, the pollen brought from a remoter flower. When 
the mysterious process does not take place wholly spon 
taneously, it comes from some person who adds a fresh 
impetus and keener sympathy to elements hitherto dormant 
in our souls. Then happens the marvellous " palingenesia ; " 


and whether he who has helped to work it be of one creed 
or another, he colours the spiritual world for us at that deci 
sive hour and evermore. We do not " adopt his opinions ; " 
we seize by sympathy on his faith, and make our own both 
its strength and its limitations. 

If we admit, on the whole, Mr. Galton s views with these 
modifications, the serious questions arise : What must be 
their general bearing on our theories of the Order of Pro 
vidence ; and on our anticipations respecting the probable 
future of Eeligion ? Is it not, in the first place (as our fathers 
would certainly have held), injurious to the Divine character 
to suppose that men are in this new sense " elected " to 
piety by the accident of birth, or, conversely, left so poorly 
endowed with the religious sentiment, that their attainment 
of a high grade of devotion is extremely improbable ? And 
in the second place, if the impulsiA^e character be the most 
genuinely religious, and the tendency of civilization be to 
reduce all impulse to a minimum, is there not reason to ap 
prehend that in the course of centuries Religion, no longer 
finding its fitting soil in human characters, will dwindle 
and continually lessen its influence ? I shall do my best to 
answer both these questions honestly in succession. 

The blasphemy of the Calvinistic doctrines of Predesti 
nation and Election does not lie in their representing God 
as dealing differently with His creatures A and B, but in 
representing Him as inflicting on B an infinite penalty for 
no fault of his own, or, as we should say in common par 
lance, for his ill-luck in having been born B and not A. 
Repudiating all ideas of such penalties, and of any final evil 
for a creature of God, insisting, as the first article of our faith, 

" that somehow good, 
Shall be the final goal of ill, 
To pangs of nature, sins of will, 
Defects of doubt and taints of blood" 


the doctrine of Election is reduced to dimensions which it 
would be hard for one who has cast an eye over history 
or society altogether to deny. The inequalities of moral 
advantages in education and the circumstances of life are 
as obvious as the inequalities of height, weight, ability, for 
tune, or any other of the conditions allotted to us by Pro 
vidence. If we mortals would fain have constructed the 
world on the plan of the Spartan commonwealth, and given 
each man an equal share of the good things thereof, it is 
quite certain that God entertains no such scheme, and that 
the principle of infinite Yariety which prevails over every leaf 
and blade of grass, approves itself to His supreme judgment 
no less perfectly, applied to the gifts and conditions of His 
rational creatures. Is there anything in this to hurt our 
sense of justice ? It is to be trusted that there is not, 
seeing that, if it were so, religious reverence must be at an 
end, since no argument can possibly overthrow the omni 
present fact before our eyes. The uneasiness we feel in 
contemplating it arises, I believe, from causes all destined 
to vanish with the progress of a nobler theology. Beside 
the idea of the final perdition of the sinful which it is so 
difficult ever thoroughly to root out of our minds, we are 
hampered with a dozen false conceptions all allied thereto. 
We think that all acts which we call sins, and which would 
be sins for us who recognize them as such and have no 
urgent temptations to commit them, are necessarily the 
same sins to the ignorant, the helpless, and besotted ; and 
we dream that Divine Justice must somehow vindicate 
itself against them in the next life. We make no sufficient 
allowance for the immeasurable difference of the standard 
by which the Pharisee and the Publican must be weighed. 
We forget how, when the poor bodily frames, so often 
disgraced, fall away at last into the dust, the souls which 
wore them, released from all their contaminations, may 


arise, purer than we can think, cleaner than we can know, 
to the higher worlds above. Least of all do we take 
count of the comparative responsibility which must belong 
to what must be called the comparative sanity of human 
beings. In the very remarkable and exhaustive treatise 
whose title I have placed second at the head of this 
article, there is to be found a most elaborate analysis of 
scores of cases of heinous crime committed of late years 
in France. Making allowance for the author s zeal 
leading him to push his conclusions somewhat beyond 
what his premisses warrant, the multitude of these crimes, 
which he gives us good reasons to believe were committed 
either under temporary aberration of mind or congenital 
moral idiotcy, are perfectly appalling. Little doubt can 
remain on any reader s mind that multitudes of men and 
women are so constituted as to have but an infinitesimal 
share of moral responsibility. The most atrocious crimes 
are often precisely those which, on learning the utter insen 
sibility displayed from first to last by the perpetrators, we 
are obliged most distinctly to class with such maniacal 
homicides as that of poor Lamb s sister, or with the ravages 
of a man-eating tiger in an Indian village. 

Again, the inequalities of moral endowment become salient 
to our apprehension when we contemplate the different races 
of mankind. Who can imagine for a moment that the same 
measure will be meted to a Malay or a Kaffir assassin as to 
an English Pritchard or a French La Pommerais ? 

But (it may be said) we are not now concerned about the 
righteous judgments of God on human transgressions. We 
are content to believe they will be meted out with absolute 
impartiality at last. What is painful in the theory of 
Hereditary Piety is the idea that, through such material 
instrumentality as natural birth, the most divine of all gifts 
should be bestowed or denied, and that, in fact, a pious man 


owes his piety not so much (as we had ever believed) to the 
direct action of the Holy Ghost on his soul, blowing like the 
wind where it listeth, but rather to his earthly father s physi 
cal bequest of a constitution adapted to the religious emotions. 

It does not seem to me that the two views, that of the 
need for the free inspiration of God s Spirit, and that of the 
heritage of what we will call the religious constitution, are 
in themselves incompatible. The one is the seed which 
must needs be sown ; the other is the ground, more or less 
rich and well prepared, into which it must be cast. That 
among those natural laws which are simply the permanent 
mode of Divine action, should be found the law that the 
ground-work of piety may be laid through generations, and 
that the godly man may bequeath to his child not only a 
body free from the diseases entailed by vice, but also a mind 
specially qualified for all high and pure emotions, this, I 
think, ought to be no great stumbling-block. That there is 
something else necessary beside a constitutional receptivity 
towards pious emotions, and that there remains as much as 
ever for God to do for man s soul after we have supposed 
he has inherited such receptivity, is, I think, sufficiently clear. 

But how of those who inherit no such character, but 
rather the opposite tendency towards absorption in purely 
secular interests, towards incredulity, or towards that evenly- 
balanced nature which Mr. Galton attributes to the typical 
sceptic, and is alike without penitence and without " am 
bition sainte"? Surely we have only to admit that here 
is one more of the thousand cases in which this world s 
tuitions are extended only to the elementary parts of that 
moral education which is to go on for eternity ? That God 
teaches a few of us some lessons here, which others must 
wait to learn hereafter, is as certain as that infants, idolators, 
idiots and boors, are not on the intellectual level of Plato or 
the moral level of Christ. That it is all the more (and not 


the less) certain that an immortality of knowledge and love 
awaits these disinherited ones of earth and " trims the 
balance of eternity," appears to me the most direct of all 
deductions from the justice and goodness of God. 

The truth seems to be that every human soul has its 
special task and its special help. Some of us have to toil 
against merely gross sensual passion. Others are raised a 
step higher, and fight with less ignoble irascible feelings 
and selfish ambitions. Yet, again, others rise above all these. 
But is their work therefore at an end ? Not so. Metaphy 
sical doubts, moral despondencies, spiritual vanities, meet 
them and buffet them in the higher air to which they have 
ascended ; and who may say that their battle is not hardest 
of all ? To help us to contend against these difficulties, 
one of us is blessed with happy circumstances, another 
has a sunny and loving disposition, a third is gifted with a 
stern moral sense, and a fourth with a fervent love for God. 
He who sees all these springs and wheels moving with or 
against one another, can alone judge which is the noblest 
victor among all the combatants. 

Lastly, we have to touch the question, whether the ten 
dency of Civilization to check the impulsive temperament 
and foster the more balanced prudential character, will in 
future time re-act upon Religion by suppressing the develop 
ment of those natures in which it now takes easiest root. 

At first sight, it would undoubtedly appear that such 
might be the case. Yet, as it is certain that in our day, 
while civilization increases more rapidly than ever and the 
power of mere creeds is evaporating into thin air, the reli 
gious feelings of mankind are by no means dying out, but 
are perhaps higher pitched than ever before, so we may 
fairly conclude that some other law comes into play to 
compensate for the rude zeal of semi-barbarism. One thing 
is obvious. The moral conception which men entertain of 


God rises constantly with their own moral progress. When 
the nations shall have reached a pinnacle of ethical excel 
lence far beyond our present standard, when the wild and 
fierce instincts now rampant shall have died out of the 
human race, and the ever-fostered social affections wreathe 
the earth with garlands of grace and fragrance, even when 
that far-off millennium comes, God will assuredly seem just 
as far above man as He seems now. His holiness will 
transcend human virtue, as the Chaldsean sky overarched 
the Tower which was built to reach it. 

Another point must not be forgotten in this connexion. 
The conscious instability of a nature capable alike of great 
good and great evil, is indeed often, as Mr. Galton teaches 
us, the first motive which makes a man religious. But having 
become religious, he does not normally remain in a con 
tinual tempest of contending principle and passion. That 
Supreme Guidance which he looks for from on high, and 
which he believes himself to obtain, leads him onward, as 
the years go by, out of the wilderness with its fiery scorpions 
of remorse, into a land of green pastures, beside still waters. 
The calm of a really religious old age, is a peace compared 
to which the equipoise of the sceptic is as the stillness of a 
mill-pond to that of the ocean on whose breast all the host 
of stars is reflected. 

It must needs be the same as regards the race. Now it 
is ever those, 

" Who rowing hard against the stream, 
See distant gates of Eden gleam, 
And do not dream it is a dream." 

But hereafter, in the far-off future, when the wilder im 
pulses are dead, mankind may not need to strive always so 
violently to "take the kingdom of Heaven by force ;" but 
glide on softly and surely, borne by the ever-swelling cur 
rents of Faith and Love. 



IN his great work, " Les Apotres," M. Renan prophesies 
that a hundred years to come the ostensible boundaries of 
Judaism, Catholicism and Protestantism, will not have 
undergone essential alteration. Each church, however, will 
then consist of two distinct classes of adherents those who 
honestly believe in its doctrines, and those who disbelieve 
them altogether, but continue to pay them outward homage, 
and to conform to established rites, from motives of public 
policy, tenderness for the weak, romantic sentiment, or, per 
chance, indifference. Dogma will, in those happy times, be 
treated as a sacred ark, never to be opened, and therefore 
harmless even if empty. 

I must beg leave to doubt that this millennium is so 
near as M. Renan supposes ; nay, that it will ever arrive. 
The pure love of theoretic truth, which he justly lays down 
as the one proper motive for those historical researches 
which are undermining the popular creed, will hardly con 
duct men generally to lives of practical falsehood. To study 
with the simple desire of obtaining facts, regardless of the 
bearing such facts may have upon our most cherished pre 
judices, can scarcely be a good preparatory training for 
acting ever afterwards as if there were no such things as 
facts in the most solemn concerns of human existence. To 



arrive at the conclusion that the Divine mercy is withheld 
from no honest seeker, however many mental errors he may 
have ignorantly imbibed, is not precisely the same con 
clusion (albeit M. Renan would have it so) as that religious 
belief is of no consequence to the soul which entertains it, 
and that it is just as possible to be noble with a base faith 
as with the purest to love God when He is represented as 
a cruel and capricious Despot, as when He is revealed as 
the holy and blessed Father of all. 

Rather do I believe that a very different future is before 
the world. The reaction has come from the belief of Chris 
tendom for eighteen centuries, that " everlasting fire " might 
be the penalty of even unwitting error concerning Trinities 
and Unities, Incarnations and Processions ; and the first 
result of that reaction is very obviously and naturally to 
lead men to depreciate for a time the real value which must 
for ever belong to the possession of such religious truth as 
each soul may be permitted to grasp. Because an artificial 
extrinsic penalty upon error is no longer feared, the intrinsic 
and unchangeable value of truth is for a moment forgotten. 
But ere long a juster estimate will be made. That calm, 
earnest, fearless spirit of search, which distinguishes so 
strangely the great thinkers of pre-Christian times from the 
feverish and terror-haunted anxiety of those who followed 
them, will return to the world, and will become the habitual 
temper of all the wise and good. Men will no longer seek 
the waters of life, as in a tale of enchantment, because they 
can save the drinker from some fiend s spell of torture or 
transport him to a fairy paradise. But they will seek them 
as when, after long, weary days of desert march, the traveller, 
dust-soiled and parched with thirst, sees Jordan eddying be 
tween its willowy banks, and flings himself on the grass and 
drinks its sweet waters and bends in its waves till they go 
over, even over his soul. 


Religious errors imbibed in youth are like those constitu 
tional maladies which may lie latent for years and perhaps 
never produce acute evil of any kind, but which also may at 
any time burst into painful and sharp disease. Human nature 
possesses sometimes such a tendency to all things healthy, 
bright and beautiful, that the most gloomy creeds fail to de 
press its natural buoyancy of hope and trustfulness, and the 
most immoral ones to soil its purity. We all know, and rejoice 
to know, many men, many more women, who are among the 
excellent of the earth, but who if they did but succeed (as they 
profess to aim to do) in likening themselves to the Deity they 
have imagined, would needs be transformed from the moat 
gentle and pitiful to the most cruel and relentless. The 
non-operative dogmas in such creeds as theirs would terrify 
them, could they but recognize them. But because of these 
blessed inconsistencies, numerous as they are, we must not 
suppose that such seeds of unmeasured evil as religious false 
hoods, are always, or even oftenest, innoxious. Like the man 
with hereditary disease, the mischief may long lie unper- 
ceived, while the course of his life does not tend to bring 
it into action. But an accident of most trivial kind, a blow 
to body or mind, a change of climate or of habits, may 
suddenly develope what has been hidden so long, and the man 
may sink under a calamity which with healthier constitution 
he would have surmounted in safety. 

On the other hand, no words can adequately describe the 
value of a religious faith which supplies the soul, I will not 
say with absolute and final truth, but with such measure of 
truth as is its sufficient bread of life, its pure and healthful 
sustenance. We may not always see that this is so. As 
error may lie long innoxious, so truth may remain latent in 
the mind, and, as it would seem, useless and unprofitable. 
He who has been blessed with the priceless boon may go 
his way, and the " cares of the world and deceitfulness of 


riches," the thousand joys and sorrows, pursuits and interests, 
faults and follies of life, may carry him on year after year 
heeding but little the treasure he carries in his breast. Yet, 
even in his worst hours, that truth is a talisman to ennoble 
what might else be wholly base, to warm what might be all 
selfish, to purify and to cheer by half-understood influence 
over all thoughts and feelings. But it is in the supreme 
moments of life, the hours of agony or danger or temptation 
to mortal sin, the hours when it is given to us either to step 
down into a gulf whose bottom we may not find before the 
grave, or to spring back out of falsehood or bitterness or 
self-indulgence upon the higher level of truth and love and 
holiness it is in these hours that true religious faith shows 
itself as the power of God unto salvation. With it, there is 
nothing man may not bear and do. Without it, he is in 
danger immeasurable. With a false creed a creed false to 
the instincts of the soul, incapable of supplying its needs of 
reverence and love, such as they have been constituted by 
the Creator a man s joys may cover the whole surface of his 
life ; but underneath there is a cold, dark abyss of doubt and 
fear. He passes hastily on in the bright sunshine, but under 
his feet he knows the ice may at any time give way and crash 
beneath him. Happiness is to him the exception in the 
world of existence. The rule is sorrow and pain ; endless 
sorrow, eternal pain. But he whose creed tells him of a God 
whom he can wholly love, entirely trust, even though his 
outward life may be full of gloom and toil, has for ever the 
consciousness of a great deep joy underlying all care and 
grief; a joy he pauses not always to contemplate, but which 
he knows is there, waiting for him whenever he turns to it ; 
and his sorrows and all the sorrows of the world are in his 
sight but passing shadows which shall give place at last to 
everlasting bliss. His plot of earth may be barren and 
flowerless, and he may till it often in weariness and pain, 


but he would not exchange it for a paradise, for within it 
there is the well of water springing up into everlasting life. 
The time will come, I am persuaded, when men will be 
more than ever awake to these facts of the value of true 
religious faith and the danger and misery of error. When this 
happens, so far from becoming indiiferentists and treating 
all creeds as alike, they will necessarily seek more earnestly 
than ever for truth, not under the scourge of the terrors of 
hell, but with a calm, deep appreciation of the intrinsic im 
portance of such faith for its own sake. Will they then be 
content, as M. Renan supposes, to go on paying outward 
adhesion to churches whose office it is to teach the very 
errors from which they have escaped ? Will they endure to 
perform solemn rites before God which have become to them 
solemn mockeries ? Will they by their countenance and 
example maintain for the young and uneducated the delu 
sions from which every hour they thank God they have been 
themselves delivered ? Will they act lies such as the saints 
of old went to the stake and the rack rather than be guilty 
of, because they have found higher, nobler, more heart- 
encouraging truths than it was given to those saints to know ? 
I believe it not ! The day will yet come when the con 
sciences of mankind will recognize that it was for no delusion 
those martyrs died, no fictitious virtue of honesty of lips 
and brain, which our greater enlightenment has discovered 
to be but a fanaticism and a prejudice. It will be recognized 
that to live a lie is more base even than to speak a lie ; and 
that a religious lie is the basest, because the cowardliest, of 
lies. It will be recognized that to mislead others by our- 
example or teaching, is to do them a wrong and injury only 
to be measured by the tremendous realities of the spiritual 
and moral life into which we dare to interpose our falsehoods 
to serve, or frustrate, God s designs. It will be recognized 
that as religious truth is the greatest of treasures, so every 


word and deed by which we tamper therewith involves a 
dishonesty which, when all the cheats and thefts of this 
world s goods are forgotten and pardoned, the offender may 
need to weep over and repent. 

If these views have in them any justice, the question so 
often asked in our day, " What religion shall we teach our 
children?" assumes new significance. That all- precious re 
ligious truth which year by year men will learn better to 
value and more simply to follow, how are the young to be 
taught to seek and aided to find it ? How are we to guard 
them against that fatal pseudo-liberal indifferentism which 
would make of Christendom another China, with each man 
lauding his neighbour s religion and depreciating with mock 
humility his own ? These are large questions, which for the 
general public correspond to the anxious private inquiry of 
so many parents : What shall we teach our children concern 
ing God and Christ and the Bible ? In what position ought 
we to place them as regards the popular theology, and the 
Churches wherein we were ourselves brought up, and whereto 
we now hold more or less loosely ? In a word, what is the 
Religion for Childhood in our age and phase of thought ? 

With much distrust of my own power to deal with so great 
a theme or offer counsel to those who alone have practical 
knowledge of the training of children, I shall venture to 
attempt some answer to these questions in the following 
pages. It must happen to all who have striven to urge the 
claims of a creed founded upon consciousness rather than 
authority, to be frequently challenged by the inquiry, " How 
would your faith suit children and ignorant persons ? It may 
be all very well for educated men and women, but how would 
it apply to the poor ? How could you bring up a child under 
its simple doctrines?" The faith which shrinks from such a 
challenge stands self-condemned. To prove that the most 
liberal theology need not do so, but has its blessed work to 


accomplish for the child no less than for the man, will be 
my present task. 

It might be thought at first sight and prior to experience 
of the fact, that in this latest Reformation, as in all pre 
ceding ones, it would be a matter of course for parents not 
only freely to transmit their religious ideas to their sons 
and daughters, but to take peculiar care to guard them 
against the errors they have renounced, and to instruct 
them in the truths they have gained. The children of the 
early Christians, Moslems, Protestants, were no doubt im 
bued to the uttermost of their parents skill with the doc 
trines of their religion. The idea of teaching a young 
Huguenot to believe in the Real Presence or to worship the 
Virgin, or even of sending him to a school where he might 
learn to do so, would have been held scarcely less than a crime 
in the eyes of his father and mother. Nay, to let him grow 
up with the notion that the question was an open one, and 
that his parents were as ready to see him choose a religion 
as a secular profession, and become a Romanist or a Jew as he 
might become a soldier or a physician, this also would have 
seemed to them monstrous, and even impious. 

How far we are from such a view of parental duty, it is 
startling to reflect. Professed Unitarians, indeed, habitually 
train their children in Unitarian principles, and lead them 
to the public services of their church. 1 But even they con 
tinually allow motives of convenience or economy to induce 
them to send them to schools where they know that the 
young minds and hearts will be subjected to the fullest 
influences of orthodoxy. The whole tenor of their guidance 
is calculated, hardly so much to secure their children s 
intelligent adherence to the creed they themselves profess, 
as to afford them a fair option to accept it if they see fit. 
Of course there are many exceptions, but I venture to 
1 This Essay was first published in the Theological (Unitarian) Eeview. 


think this description may be taken as a true one as regards 
the majority of Unitarian families, and that the result may 
be traced in the innumerable lapses of the sons and daugh 
ters of Unitarians into the ranks of churches from whose 
errors a very moderate share of parental care and warning 
ought to have protected them. That worldly interest has 
some part in all this must perhaps be conceded. The social 
and (let it be added, shameful as it is) the matrimonial dis 
advantages of membership in a small sect, may make some 
Unitarian parents less unwilling than they ought to be to sac 
rifice their sons and daughters spiritual for temporal benefit. 
I am persuaded, however, that far more often the motives of 
Unitarian parents, even of those who act most unguardedly, 
are higher than these. Many of them doubtless imagine 
that what is so clear to their minds will needs be clear to 
those of their children. Others suppose that even if their 
son receive false instruction at school, they will be able in 
a few weeks of holidays to supply an antidote of rational 
argument which shall neutralize the poison which month 
after month has been slowly infiltered and taken up into 
the child s system of thought and feeling. Manj* more, 
having been themselves educated in the older and stricter 
Unitarian training, have never experienced and have formed 
no adequate idea of the evil, and of the tenacity of the 
darker doctrines of the popular creed. They think them 
silly rather than deadly. They have never known what it 
is to believe in Eternal Hell. They have never knelt to 
thank God when that horror of horrors was lifted from their 
souls. Nay, even their own boasted doctrine of the Divine 
Unity has been always to them a mere negation of Trini 
tarian error. They have never known the power of that 
flood- tide of reverence and love when all the religious emo 
tions, long divided, confused, and scattered, are turned at last 
into the one channel, and the same Lord is recognized as 


Creating, Redeeming, and Sanctifying God. All these expe 
riences, which belong to those who have been brought up 
in the old creed and through struggle and difficulty have 
reached to the new, are unknown to Unitarians born and 
educated in the church of Channing or Priestley. They 
almost marvel at the ardour of converts for truths valuable 
indeed, they admit, in the highest degree, but still, so obvious ! 
the very alphabet, to them, of religious knowledge. They 
as little expect their children to renounce these elementary 
truths and go back to the creeds which their grandfathers 
renounced, as they expect them to give up modern geology 
and astronomy for those of the dark ages ; and they take as 
little precaution to guard them against one mistake as the 
other. "When the catastrophe arrives, and the entail of 
Unitarianism is broken, as usual, at the third generation, 
they are grieved and wounded ; but perhaps even then they 
hardly realize all their child has lost of an inheritance which 
they were bound to transmit to him securely. 

The case of those who are not members of the Unitarian 
Church, but who entertain Unitarian or Theistic opinions 
while nominally ranked with the orthodox, is of course still 
worse than the others. For them to bring up their children 
to believe as they do themselves is a real difficulty, and one 
they very rarely even try to surmount. Those who have 
not such definite views as to make them wish to break with 
the Church in which they were born, or who, while having 
them, lack courage to do it, are not very likely to train 
their children in clearer light or greater sincerity. The 
extreme latitude of opinion which the laity enjoy in the 
National Church, makes it appear a needless and ungrateful 
effort to release ourselves from the arms which received us 
in baptism, and will (whatever be our offences) drop us 
gently and tenderty into the grave, but which, in all the 
interval between, will never exercise over us any forceful 


interference. How many thus remain in the Church be 
cause they are never called on by any test, or even inquiry, 
to renew or renounce their adherence to it ; how many 
more remain with the idea of Colenso and Presbyter An- 
glicanus, that they have a right as members of the nation 
to be members of the National Church, whatever their 
views may be of its doctrine how many of all these there 
are now in England, it is not easy to tell. Such as they 
are, while young men and women, their position perhaps 
entails little difficulty of a moral sort. But when they 
become parents the case is altered. Shall they have their 
children baptized ? Shall they teach them to read the 
Bible, and repeat the usual hymns and collects ? Above all, 
shall they take them to church and make them learn prayers 
and listen to sermons all and each saturated with doctrines 
the parent disbelieves ? On the other hand, shall they 
omit all these traditional processes and bring up the children, 
as their friends will assuredly say, like little heathens ? 
The question is making many a father anxious, and giving 
many a mother the heart-ache, in England at this moment. 

It must be owned that the case is beset with difficulties. 
Putting aside special family difficulties difference of opinion 
between the two parents, interference of other relatives, and 
last, not least, the forbidden efforts of orthodox servants 
to impress children with their crude and cruel theology 
putting all these aside, there remain gravest difficulties com 
mon to all. I cannot presume to offer counsel as to these 
difficulties in detail, but I venture to urge the considera 
tion of a few general principles which, if approved, may 
serve as guides to decide the outline of conduct to be filled 
by each parent according to special circumstances. 

In the first place, a critical spirit can never be rightly 
fostered in a child. It is not for one who has all the evi 
dence yet to learn, and even the process by which evidence 


must be weighed, to mount any seat of judgment and pro 
nounce sentence. To lead a child to do so, even in matters 
tenfold less solemn than those which pertain to religion, 
must needs distort the natural order and development of 
his faculties. jN"ay, more : the critical faculty, even when 
exercised in the plenitude of the powers of middle life, is 
always somewhat opposed to the instincts of reverence and 
humility, and only becomes good and noble when used under 
the spur of pure love of truth, and with all the caution 
and self-distrust which facts may warrant. Often must it 
have happened to all of us to feel how violent a revulsion 
is created when a sermon appealing to criticism, and 
demanding of us to revise arguments of history, philology, 
metaphysics, has followed suddenly upon prayers which 
for the time had restored us to a more humble, childlike 
attitude of mind. To be brought to realize somewhat of 
the distance between ourselves and the Divine Holiness, 
to feel some of the deeper emotions of penitence and aspi 
ration, perhaps to pray in the true sense of prayer, and 
then, a moment afterwards, instead of having fresh moral 
life poured into us, with high thoughts of God and duty 
and immortality, instead of being lifted by our stronger 
brother into nearer gaze at the Supreme Goodness, to be 
suddenly called on to revise our intellectual stores, recall 
this detail of history and that fact of science, and then 
balance the validity of the arguments by which the preacher 
has appealed to us for a verdict of "Proven" or "Not proven," 
this is the weariness of preaching, this is the feast where 
the rich Intellect may be fed, but the hungry Soul goes 
empty away. There is no harm in it all. Perhaps it is 
very necessary that congregations should have such facts 
and arguments often placed before them ; and if they are 
to be placed at all, they must needs be placed for critical 
free judgment. Only the religious sentiment and the reli- 


gious intellect are brought into painful and jarring proximity, 
the attitude of the soul is altered too rudely. 

But if this be so with us all in middle life, how much 
more incongruous must be anything like such critical judg 
ment in a child ! The most fatal and hopeless lack in any 
child s character is that of the feeling of reverence ; and it 
would almost seem that when from any cause it is deficient, 
it is well-nigh impossible to create it afresh. But if a mode 
were to be devised expressly for the extinction of reverence, 
it would manifestly be to set a child to pass its wretched little 
judgments on the opinions of those who constitute for it 
the world. Thus, whatever else a child ought to be taught 
about the popular religion, it is quite clear it must not be 
taught to set itself up to decide that such and such doctrines 
are foolish or absurd. 

Secondly : We have been all a good deal misled by the 
vaunt of our ancestors, that a Christian child knows more 
about God than Socrates or Plato. We have a latent idea 
that it is our business to verify the boast, and stock a 
baby s mind with formulae about that Ineffable Existence, 
whose relations to us we may indeed learn, but whose 
awful Nature not all the wisdom of the immortal life may 
fully reveal to His creatures. Thus there is a constant 
effort to give a child notions about what could only be 
fitly treated as too solemn a mystery to pretend to have 
notions of at all; and the natural inquisitive questions of 
the pupil are not met by the grave warning which best 
would instil reverence and awe, but by efforts to give or 
correct ideas where no ideas may be. We have all been so 
accustomed to " Bodies of Divinity," Catechisms and Creeds, 
that we find it hard to imagine religion despoiled of such 
paraphernalia, and mothers ask, with an alarm which would 
be ludicrous were the subject less solemn : " What am I to 
teach my child if I am not to make him learn the Church 


Catechism, or the Shorter Catechism, or Watts Catechism, 
or tell him the story of Adam and Eve and the apple, and 
Noah s ark, or the history of Elisha and the naughty boys, 
or the fate of Ananias and Sapphira ? If all these things 
are to be left out, and the child is not even to know what 
each Person of the Trinity does for him, and what his god 
fathers and god-mothers have promised he shall believe, what 
remains for me to teach him of religion ? " 

It is a startling idea to such good mothers to reflect that 
all these lessons are not religion at all, but instructions which 
much oftener turn their children from religion than engage 
them to love it, and that the utter cessation of such tasks 
would leave them open to far more devout feelings. "No 
religious teaching?" But can a mother, herself penetrated 
with religious feeling, teach anything to her child which 
shall not also teach him religion? Can she direct his mind 
to the objects around him, sun and star and bird and bee, 
can she lead him to check his little selfishnesses and angry 
passions, and be kind to his brothers and sisters and obedient 
to herself, can she read with him a single story or poem or 
book of infant science, in which the thought of God the 
Maker, God the Observer, God the Lord of all things 
beautiful and good, shall not shine over all her teachings ? 
Religion entering in this its natural way is full of interest 
and delight to the child. Behind the dry facts, which 
have for him perhaps little value, he finds that meaning 
which elevates Fact into Truth. All things have a personal 
sense and purpose, since he is made to see a Personal Will 
directing them all ; and by degrees the vast unity of the 
world, the unity of order, beauty and beneficence, dawns 
upon his soul. 

Again : There is need to bear in mind that a child s facul 
ties of love are given data in his nature. We have not got 
to create them, and we can in very small degree warp and 


alter them from what they have been created. They are so 
constituted as spontaneously to open to an object of one 
kind, and to shrink from an object of another. The task of 
him who believes children s hearts to be God s handiwork 
and not that of a Devil, is to educate (draw out) what God has 
put there, and to present to those faculties, as they grow, that 
idea of God and duty which they are made to fasten upon 
with honour and love. Divines talk of children being wholly 
corrupt, and poets tell us they " trail clouds of glory" ; but 
parents neither find the corruption nor see much of the 
clouds of glory. It is a germ of a soul, rather than a soul 
either burdened with sin or "trailing" any foreknown light, 
which lies covered up in a little child s cradle. But assuredly 
it is a germ in which God has folded potentially all the 
blossoms of holy feelings man can know on earth. Surely 
it is always proof that the teaching is wrong, when those 
sentiments which God has intended should turn to Himself 
do not turn to Him as spontaneously as the young plant to 
the light ? It must always be because it is not God, the true 
God, whom we have presented to the soul of the child, but 
some grim idol whom it was never made to love, that it has 
failed to lift itself to Him. 

Again : The sense of sin is so deeply connected with the 
religious sentiment, it is so profoundly true that the holiness 
of God is first intimately revealed to us through the sense 
of our own unholy deeds and thoughts, that it is of the first 
importance in all religious teaching to place aright this matter 
of " the exceeding sinfulness of sin." No human piety, even 
the piety of a little innocent child, can live and bloom with 
out some tears of penitence to water it. Nay, the readiness 
and fulness of repentance in early youth, the April flood of 
pure and blessed sorrow which falls so abundantly and then 
leaves the sky so clear and earth so tremulously bright, is 
evidence enough that repentance has its inevitable work 


even in the religious life of the infant. But there is no 
part of religion which has been so cruelly perverted as this. 
No theological dogmas impressed on a child s intellect 
can be half so mischievous as the practical moral training 
which distorts for it the natural processes of penitence and 
restoration ; and no efforts of religious teachers have been 
so persistent as those which have been directed to this fatal 
aim. Starting with the wholly false conception of the 
highest religious life as if it were one perpetual sickly 
anxiety and " worrying about the soul," they are uneasy if 
their child enjoys a healthier state, and weeps only for a 
real fall, instead of puling continually from over-tenderness 
of conscience. A child s moral life ought to go on, like its 
physical life, all unconsciously to itself; but just as the preco 
cious offspring of over-anxious parents think about cold or heat 
or unwholesome food, the children of some religious people 
are made to know all about their own spiritual condition, and 
commence in the nursery a life of moral valetudinarianism. 
Of course such mistakes lie chiefly with Evangelical parents, 
and few others are likely to fall into them, but into 
opposite errors of which we shall speak presently. But the 
narrowness of a woman s life has undoubtedly a tendency 
to make mothers vastly exaggerate the lilliputian sins and 
miniature transgressions of their little kingdom, the nursery ; 
and the result is too often an attempt to construct for its 
inhabitants a baby-house morality, wherein the true propor 
tion of good and evil is lost, and the horrible mischief intro 
duced of perpetual forced and untrue repentance. A wise 
mother once said to me " I wish my children to know there 
are such things as great crimes in the world. It will teach them 
that their own little sins and bad feelings are not enormous 
offences, but are the seeds which, if unchecked, may grow to 
be enormous offences. I wish them to understand the soli 
darity of sin, and that all sins are allied and interactive." 


The opposite error of moral laxity and indifferentism is 
one into which parents who have themselves escaped from 
the evils of Calvinistic training are naturally most prone to 
fall. While one child s conscience is over-stimulated to the 
verge of disease, another finds its own instinctive penitence 
treated so lightly, its real faults passed over as if so trivial 
and unimportant, that it is impossible but that, with a child s 
susceptibility to the opinion of those above it, the penitence 
soon dies away and the fault is repeated. 

Now the parent who would hold the mean between these 
two errors, and neither excite a child s conscience to disease 
nor lull it to lethargy, has a most difficult task to perform 
in face of the common preaching and common juvenile reli 
gious literature of the day. Clergymen addressing audiences 
of grown men and women may well be excused if they con 
sider that there is small danger of their adult hearers making 
too much of their sins, but much danger of their making too 
little. The most spirit-stirring, and probably on the whole 
the most useful, preachers in the orthodox churches are those 
who are for ever proclaiming "the wrath of God against 
sin," and urging their hearers to more earnest self-scrutiny 
and deeper penitence. But these spiritual medicines, meted 
out for the hard conscience of a man, are almost poison to 
the tender heart of the child ; and the very solemnity of the 
place where the lesson is heard increases the power of the 
words to exaggerate and distort. Again : religious books 
for children and religious novels for the young are half of 
them written by women of sickly sentiment, full of that 
trivial, baby-house morality of which I have spoken; and 
the child whose mind is fed with such petty thoughts cannot 
possibly grow up to health and vigour of soul. The truth 
cannot be too often recalled that human beings have not got 
an infinite store of attention and reverence to bestow, insomuch 
that they may harmlessly lavish a great deal of either upon 


trifles, and then retain afterwards an equal amount ready 
for really important and sacred things. Waste of the 
spiritual emotions is the most fatal waste of which we can 
be guilty. 

If the reader concede the principles now stated, the 
ground of debate regarding the religious education of a 
child will be found at least considerably narrowed. If the 
possession of religious truth be the most priceless of heri 
tages if a critical spirit must never be fostered in a child 
if systems of theology and a store of cut-and-dried facts in 
divinity be no needful or desirable part of a child s religion 
if a child s faculties of love and reverence be given data, 
and our task in relation to them only to present worthily their 
proper Object if the due place to be assigned in moral train 
ing to sin and penitence be the most important and sacred 
part of education, wherein to err either on the side of exag 
geration or underrating is well-nigh fatal if all these things 
be so, then some of the following consequences may be fairly 
assumed to follow. 

1st. The admission that religious truth is the most price 
less of heritages must surely decide the question for each 
parent, what are the doctrines which he or she individually 
is morally bound to teach to son or daughter. Catholic and 
Calvinist parents, with their gloomy creeds, their gospels 
of evil tidings, still without hesitation feel it their duty to 
teach what is to them, subjectively, true. Common honesty, 
common regard for the welfare of their children, require it 
of them ; and no greater causes of public and even national 
disturbance are found than the efforts of rulers to interfere 
with this duty, and teach the child of a Catholic, Calvinism, 
or of a Jew, Catholicism. Shall, then, those whom I am 
addressing in this paper, whose creed (as they are at least 
persuaded) is truest of all, and ten thousand times a 
happier, holier, nobler faith than that of Borne or Geneva, 


shall they alone hesitate whether they shall bring up their 
children in their own creed or in that of their neighbours ? 
How deplorable is it there should even be a question in 
such a matter ! Yet question there is ; and the actual 
practice of liberal-minded parents at this moment is so 
variable and devoid of fixed principle of action, that it would 
be ridiculous, were it not lamentable, to describe it. Here 
is a mother who does not believe a syllable of the popular 
theology, but brings up her daughters carefully to believe 
it all, and pretends to them that she believes it also, guard 
ing them from the chance of reading a book or conversing 
with a person who could disturb their faith. Here is a 
father who allows his boys to be taught the whole system* 
which he himself believes to be as much a delusion as the 
vortices of Descartes ; but he thinks to remedy some of the 
evil by applying an antidote in the shape of a little levity. 
Here is one who trains his child to criticize the opinions of 
those around, and to set up its small judgment over the 
mysteries of heaven and earth. Here is another who teaches 
"Elegant Extracts" of Christianity, and leaves the child 
by and by to discover that the authority for what it was 
told was true and what it was told was false, was precisely 
one and the same. Here, again, is one who, from fear of 
prejudicing" the child s mind, teaches him no religion at 
all, and thus loses for him for ever all the tender associa 
tions of youthful piety. Placed clearly before a parent s 
mind, the idea of deliberately teaching a child falsehood, or 
choosing for it secular advantage rather than spiritual benefit, 
would seem shocking and monstrous to all save the most 
worldly. But the falsehoods are popular falsehoods, filling 
the very air of English thought ; the secular advantages 
offered by orthodoxy are tangible, considerable, every day 
present. The spiritual benefits of a pure creed (now we have 
ceased to believe in eternal penalties for error) are purely 


spiritual ; and in the violent reaction from the old over 
estimate of the importance of opinion, it is a natural error 
of liberalism to overlook them. We see good men and 
women nay, noble and saintly men and women whose 
opinions are the furthest from our own ; and many a parent 
may feel he would be content to see his son or daughter 
like them, and at the same time making " the best of both 
worlds" in the safe shelter of orthodoxy. But we forget 
perhaps that another generation will not stand where the 
last stood, and that the good fruit we admire did not indeed 
grow off the thorns of the Five Points of Calvinism, but off 
the true vine of Divine Love which wreathed itself around 
them. The chance that, if we plant only the thorns, the vine 
will grow over them, is one assuredly not to be counted 

2ndly. From the observation of the evil results of instil 
ling a critical spirit at an age when a child cannot possibly 
possess either the materials or true method for forming a 
critical judgment, it follows that liberal parents, like others, 
must needs teach their religion to their children didactically. 
There lies here a great practical difficulty. On -the one 
hand, we all know too well the evil and danger of bringing 
up a young mind to believe a whole mass of doctrines as 
certain and unquestionable, and then leaving it to find out 
at its entrance into independent life and when temptation 
is at its highest, that many of these doctrines, if not all of 
them, are utterly uncertain and doubtful. On the other 
hand, to teach a child to consider all the truths of the un 
seen world as matters of speculation, would be still more 
absurd and mischievous. To impart knowledge of them, 
and yet to impart at the same time that other knowledge; 
that parents are not infallible ; that no human knowledge 
is infallible ; that to love Truth and search for it as for hid 
treasure, rather than to receive it unasked and undeserved, 


like the rain, is the duty and the lot of man ; to impart 
this must needs be a task of great delicacy and difficulty 
It is to be remembered, however, that a child is always 
naturally disposed to look on his parents opinion as final 
truth so long as the parents mind bounds its narrow horizon 
of all wisdom. Thus to make a child understand that any 
doctrine is or is not true in its parents opinion, is to give 
it at once the prestige of truth, and yet not to incur any 
risk of future break-down and discovery. By and by the 
child will learn what is the value of its parents opinions 
on all matters, and if the parent be truly good and wise, 
that value will be very great indeed, though of course far 
short of absolute authority. In any case, the parent will 
obtain for his religious teaching precisely the respect it de 
serves to obtain that of his own personal weight in the 
estimation of his son or daughter. How much this view of 
the proper nature of instruction adds to the responsibility 
of forming the opinions which are thus to be bequeathed 
as the most precious heritage, there is no need to tell. In 
this, as in all other things, a man or woman s responsibility 
in thought, feeling and action, seems to become doubled and 
quadrupled as they assume the holy rank of a father or a 
mother. Doubtless, many of them must in their hearts 
echo poor Margaret Fuller s exclamation : "I am the 
parent of an immortal soul ! God be merciful to me a 
sinner ! " 

3rdly. If we abandon the idea that children should be 
crammed with facts connected somehow with religion, and 
made capable of " telling more about God than Plato and 
Socrates" (much more indeed than it is likely Plato and 
Socrates can now tell after two thousand years of heaven), 
there will be an end in a great measure of the difficulty 
which now besets liberal parents in their inquiry, " What 
shall we teach our children of a Sunday ? " With the ima- 


ginary necessity will disappear the imaginary duty of meet 
ing it, and small Platos of five years old and Socrates in 
white frocks will no longer be made to pore over catechisms 
or repeat the beautiful collects like so many little parrots 
in a row. The abolition of those "burdens grievous to be 
borne," the wearisome Sunday lessons of childhood, would, we 
believe, accomplish no small step towards making children 
love the religion which they heard of in other and happier 
ways. Can anybody fancy the result of teaching " Affection 
to Parents " by a regular educational battery of catechisms 
and texts once a week? Would it make a child love its 
mother better ? We rather imagine the reverse. Nor can 
we conceive why the analogous sentiment of love to the 
Father in heaven should follow a different law. 

The old Hebrew prophet believed that a special blessing 
would come to those who " called the Sabbath a delight 
It would seem to have been the peculiar pride of our Puritan 
fathers to make this blessing as difficult of attainment as 
possible, especially to children. Those to whom this paper 
is addressed need not be adjured to abandon the Puritanical 
Sabbath-keeping, whose memory returns to some of us as 
the dreariest recollection of youth ; Sabbaths with the hard 
est lessons of the week, whose imperfect acquirement some 
how involved double offence ; Sabbaths with wearisome 
litanies and incomprehensible sermons through long bright 
summer mornings, when we sighed to run out and gather 
cowslips in the sweet green grass ; Sabbaths with unwhole 
some cold meals crowded one on another, making young 
and old heavy and ill-tempered ; Sabbaths toyless and joy 
less, when all books permitted to be read had the same 
indescribable flavour of unreal goodness, and whose perusal 
was accompanied by the same sense of soreness of the 
elbows and weariness of the poor little dangling legs ! 
These are not Sabbaths which the children of liberal 


thinkers arc likely ever to recall. But there would surely 
be a loss incurred the other way, were the Sunday oblite 
rated from their childish calendar or made a purely secular 
holiday. There is no need it should be so. Calvinism and 
all the forms of the old theology appeal to grown men and 
women, that is, to persons conscious of actual sin, and they 
either need to be modified to meet the requirements of inno 
cent childhood, or else they distort childish souls to meet 
their darker lessons. But a true theology, whose basis shall 
be the spontaneous religious consciousness of our nature, 
is not thus -unfitted for childhood, nor will its simple and 
natural services be otherwise than delightful to the young 
mind and heart to whom the sentiments of awe and love are 
full of joy. Parents, we believe, will be obliged rather to 
hold back and calm the fervent religious emotions of their 
children, than fictitiously to nurse them as now, when they 
teach them to think of God as indeed He is, and not 
as the creeds have represented Him. We have known a 
few such happy children, and in nearly every case their 
mothers have said, " I hardly dare to speak much of religious 
things, they feel too much." 

Bible-reading, again, is a difficulty. An education which 
should omit the study of the greatest of all books a book 
which, in a literary sense alone, is to other books as Shake 
speare is to the puny poets of the age of Queen Anne, and 
which, in a religious sense, is the quarry whence men will 
draw praise and prayer while the world remaineth an 
education which should omit the study of the Bible, would 
be no education at all. Even as the chief historical docu 
ment of the past, and the Guide-book (we had almost said, 
"idol") of half Christendom at present, the Bible is a fact 
no more to be ignored in the instruction of a child, than 
the existence of the sovereign or the capital city of its 
native country. But how is a child to read the Bible and 


not acquire the orthodox theology ? Let me rather ask, 
Would any child construct for itself the orthodox theology 
if it were to ponder over the Bible for years, provided it 
had not been previously taught to find that theology therein ? 
That the idea of the Trinity and the "Plan of Salvation" 
would even occur to a child on reading the Gospels, I 
utterly disbelieve. "What it would find there, beyond some 
beautiful stories and words of prayer and precept grandly 
sounding in its ears, it is hard to say. But a child s mind 
does not construct systems. The simple system of God s 
Unity and Fatherhood once presented to it, will more than 
suffice for its wants in this respect. 

The evil which comes of Bible-reading for children surely 
arises from the ineradicable habit of treating the book mysti 
cally, and as differing, not in degree only, but utterly in 
kind, from other books. The child reads it long before any 
other history, and quite as a different lesson, and therefore he 
thinks of Adam and Eve and Noah and Balaam quite other 
wise than he thinks of the characters he reads of elsewhere. 
The writer knew a case of a boy whose education was con 
ducted on the opposite principle. His parents (disciples of 
Theodore Parker) first gave him to read some of Mr. Cox s 
beautiful Grecian stories, and then afterwards, without any 
special preparation, the book of Genesis. The little fellow, 
a clever child of eight or nine, was immensely delighted 
with it, but very manifestly had no other impression than 
that the Israelites believed in the One God and the Greeks 
in many false ones, and that the early legends of each might 
fitly be compared. He even found out for himself the re 
semblance between the story of Noah and Deucalion, of 
Jephtha s daughter and Iphigenia. To a child thus begin 
ning it, the Bible would have a thousand good lessons, but 
no lesson of superstition. I may add that the same boy 
was without exception the most religious I ever knew, 


brave and true, and beautifully dutiful to his parents, and 
his early manhood bears no less excellent promise. 

Finally, there is the church-going difficulty. Unitarians 
of course have a clear path before them ; they naturally take 
their children to the chapels they themselves attend. The 
assurance that the worship in such chapels is addressed to 
the Supreme Father only, that the prayers are always of a 
pure and spiritual cast, and that the morals inculcated in 
the sermon are universally lofty and true, all these are im 
mense advantages which may well solve the question for 
any parent as to the desirability of bringing his child to 
public worship. But even Unitarians must feel how little 
of the service or sermon suited for intellectual men and 
women, can, by any effort of the minister, be made also 
suitable for little children. Some of the preaching, indeed, 
suggests rather the impression of the utter unfitness that 
childish ears should hear it and childish minds be called 
to judge in such controversies. The Evangelical teaching, 
over-stimulating to sickliness and burning out in brief flame 
of excitement the fuel of sentiment which should have 
warmed a life- time, even this is hardly more injurious to 
a child than to be introduced in infancy to the polemics of 
the churches, and allowed to turn to the page of scepticism, 
before it has learned the lesson of faith. As well might a 
primrose grow in a dusty arena, as the tender piety of youth 
flourish in the midst of theological controversy. 

Liberal parents who take their children to the services 
of the Church of England have perhaps not so much to fear 
in the way of controversy from the pulpit, though they 
may be compelled to sit by silent and helpless while their 
children hear their own profoundest convictions treated as 
criminal and abominable, and those who hold them com- 
demned to everlasting fire. They may hear these things. 
But what they are sure to hear are doctrines they believe 


to be false, and prayers which, according to their views, 
are mockeries as regards the things asked for, and 
well-nigh idolatrous as regards the Person at intervals 

Is this, can this, be right ? It seems as if we must have 
wandered far from simplicity and honesty before we can 
say so deliberately. Of course there are all sorts of moral 
expediencies in the case. The impression produced by a 
dignified cuttus, by the sense of public opinion and sympathy, 
and by all the historical associations and aesthetic influences 
belonging to the great National Church all these are excel 
lent things to give a child. "When it is added, that giving 
them cuts the knot of twenty petty difficulties which beset 
the course of keeping him at home, and that it is so much 
the natural order of the family that to diverge from it 
would require an effort, there is of course a goodly show of 
argument for the expediency of taking a child to church. 
But is there not a higher expediency which points a different 
way, even that expediency of simple truth and honesty 
which must needs be the best guide to the ultimate good 
of any human soul ? 

Among the numerous immoral stories of the Jewish 
Scriptures there is one which is always strangely slurred 
over by friends and foes ; by friends because it is inde 
fensible, by foes because in condemning it they must con 
demn their own conduct. In the moment of his rapturous 
gratitude for his miraculous cure, we are told that Naaman 
bargained with the prophet, that his conversion to the 
worship of the true God was not to prevent him from 
attending his sovereign and bowing to his idol in courtier 
fashion whenever it might be desirable. The inspired 
prophet is recorded to have sanctioned this stipulation, 
and bade the deliberate hypocrite " Go in peace. " Can 
this wretched story have had much influence ? I 


hardly believe it, and yet it might pass fo.r a parable of 
what is done every day in England. So commonly is it 
done, that to speak gravely of it as moral error sounds 
crude and rough ; the residue of the harsh prejudices and 
trenchant ideas of bygone times. "We have been accus 
tomed to soften down everything of this kind ; to concede 
gracefully that every opinion is true in some sense or other, 
and that it is fanatical to make a stand against this phrase 
in a creed or that expression in a prayer, or talk as if the 
sin of idolatry could possibly be incurred in England in the 
nineteenth century. But it does not clearly appear how truth 
and sincerity have altered their characters, or why, because 
we are enabled to do better justice to our neighbour s views, 
we are to be less honest in following out our own. If, to the 
individual concerned, it be as clear a conviction that Christ 
is not the Infinite Deity as (according to the story) it was 
to Naaman that Hirnmon was not He, it remains to be 
shown how bowing to the one differs essentially as a moral 
act from bowing to the other. 

These are matters of solemn import, rising to questions 
beyond the subject of this paper. Let it be remarked, at 
all events, that the free-thinking parent who means to make 
his son a thoroughly upright man, hardly sets about it in 
the best way, when he makes the most impressive action 
of his childish life consist in praying for things which he 
believes are never granted to prayer, and in paying divine 
worship to a being whom he believes to have been a mortal 
man. When the two fallacies are discovered (as the parent 
who knows the current of modern thought must expect they 
will be) in the boy s advancing youth when the son shall 
find out that the father taught him what he did not himself 
believe how shall filial respect for the veracity of the parent 
survive, or an example of uprightness be derived from his 
conduct ? 


To conclude,. The last principle laid down was this : 
That in teaching religion to a child, our task is not to dis 
tort and forcibly wrench aside the child s spontaneous senti 
ments, but to present to them the Object they are made 
expressly to love and reverence. 

Let us for a moment revert to first principles to set before 
ourselves clearly what is the aim of religious education. 

Each human love has its peculiar character. Parental 
love combines itself with tenderness and protection, filial 
love with reverence, conjugal love with passion, friendly 
love with esteem, brotherly and sisterly love with the sym 
pathies and confidence of consanguinity. Love directed, 
not to child or parent, wife or friend, but to GOD, has also 
its peculiar character. It is a love of Reverence, of Admira 
tion, of Gratitude; above all, of absolute MORAL ALLEGIANCE, 
as to a rightful Moral Lord. Such sentiments as may be 
given to an unseen Creator, which are not of this character 
the sentiments to which history bears horrible testimony, 
of raptures of devotion felt by wicked and cruel men who 
believed God to be as cruel and unjust as themselves these 
sentiments do not constitute Love of God. They are hideous 
aberrations of the soul, diseased emotions addressed to an 
imaginary Being. 

Again : The true love of God, of which we have spoken, 
is not merely a part of religion, or the ultimate aim of 
religion. It is religion. The dawn of it in the heart is the 
aurora of the eternal day which is to shine more and more 
perfectly through the ages without end. Till it begins, there 
is no real religion, only at best the preparation for religion. 

Thus it follows that to awaken in a child s heart the true 
love of God, is the alpha and omega of religious education. 
Make it feel this love, and the highest good a creature can 
know has been secured for it. Fail to make it feel it, and 
the most elaborate instructions, the largest store of theo- 


logical knowledge and religious precepts, are useless and 
absurd. In the battle of life, children taught everything 
else except this love, go forth like those mockeries of steam 
ships the Chinese constructed to contend with ours, fitted 
with all the appliances which would have been useful had 
there been any engine within, but without that which should 
have given power and motion. 

These are principles to which all will agree. Even Roman 
ists say their colossal system of priestly mediation aims 
at the end to help souls to the love of God ; and Calvinists, 
whose dogmas make the Deity hateful, yet profess to instil 
them with the view of inspiring a love which can only be 
the reaction from fear. But the great difference between 
the followers of such churches and those who hold a happier 
faith must consist, not in the end all may contemplate as de 
sirable, but in the means each may pursue for its attainment. 

There is something very deplorable, when we reflect upon 
it, in the way in which mankind in all ages have sought 
to take by violence that kingdom of heaven whose golden 
gates are ever open to him who knocks thereat in filial 
entreaty. From lands and times when they tortured the 
body, to days like our own in England when they only strive 
to wrench the affections and distort the judgment, the same 
all-pervading error may be traced. Naturally, men who 
have thus acted in the case of their own souls, have no 
scruple to act so in their children s behalf ; and to drill a 
young mind to religion is conceived of from first to last as 
a difficult task, to be achieved by constant coercion of the 
spontaneous sentiments, and the enforcement of a duty natu 
rally distasteful. It is an immense evidence of the readiness 
of the human heart to love the Divine Father, that, with the 
training usually given in this Christian land, so many are 
still found to resist its natural consequences, and to love God 
in spite of their education. 


If a mother wished to make her boy grow up full of 
affection and respect for a father in India or Australia, how 
would she set about it ? Would she first start with the 
notion that it would be a very hard thing to do, and contrary 
to the child s nature ? "Would she insist on it, morning, 
noon and night, as his severe duty ? Would she talk of the 
absent parent in a conventional voice, and make addressing 
him by letter, or doing anything for him, a sterner task than 
any other ? Lastly, would she perpetually tell the child 
that when the father came home, if he had not been obedient 
and was not affectionate to him, the father would turn him 
out of the house and burn him alive ? Are these the methods 
by which a wife and mother s instincts would lead her to 
act ? Surely we have only to imagine the reverse of all 
these the popular processes of religious instruction to find 
the true method for guiding children s hearts to love their 
Father in heaven ? A child must not think it a hard thing, 
a task of fear and awe, a notion to be dragged into its 
lessons and its play to make them more irksome and less 
joyous, that it ought to be feeling what it does not feel. 
Above all things, the idea that such a thing is possible as 
an ultimate and final rejection by God ought never so much 
as to be presented to the mind of a child. A child can very 
well understand punishment ; nor does it at all love the less, 
but rather the more, those who punish it justly and for 
its good. But punishment extending into infinity beyond 
justice, punishment whose aim and result is the evil, not the 
good, of the sufferer, this is an idea utterly opposed to all 
the instincts of childhood. Of course the poor little mind 
takes in the shocking doctrine, presented to it like poison 
from its mother s hand. But the results are fatal. In one, 
it is indifference ; in another, dislike ; in another, an atrophy 
of the religious nature ; in a fourth, a fever of terror, from 
which the soul escapes only by casting off all belief. Even 


when the most fortunate end is reached, and the man throws 
away in adult life the doctrine taught him in childhood, 
even then for long years the shadow remains over him. We 
return to early fears, as well as loves, many a time before we 
relinquish them for ever. The parent who would give his 
child a truly religious education, must make it his care to 
insure him (as he would insure him against listening to far 
lesser blasphemies) from ever even hearing of an Eternal 
Hell. This done, we firmly believe that, if he himself love 
God, he will find it the easiest of lessons to teach his child 
to love Him likewise. "We must remember this : God s voice 
speaks in the heart of a child as in the heart of a man ; nay, 
far more clearly than in the heart of a disobedient and world- 
encrusted man. To teach a child Whose voice that is, to 
make him identify it with the Giver of all good, the Creator 
of this world (so fresh and lovely in his young eyes !) to do 
this is to give him religion. And the religion thus given 
will grow into fuller, maturer life, till it rises to the reality 
of prayer, the full blessedness of Divine communion. 

A wise mother once told me she had taught her child a 
few simple prayers to repeat at morning and night, and then 
had given the advice to ask of God, whenever the child 
needed it, help to overcome her temptations, and to thank 
Him when she felt very happ)^ After some months she 
asked the little girl " Tell me, my child, when you pray to 
God do you feel as if it were a real thing, as if there were 
some One who heard you ? " The child pondered a moment, 
and then replied : " Not when I say my prayers morning 
and evening, mama, I do not think I feel anything ; but 
whenever I do as you told me, and just say to God what I 
am wanting, or how happy I am, I am quite sure He knows 
what I say." 

Do we need better instance of how real and holy a thing 
may be the Religion of Childhood ? 



THERE exist at all times in the world s history, but rather 
pre-eminently in our own age, minds of an order with which 
it is somewhat difficult to deal justly. They are those 
which seem to be without logical cohesion, whose ideas and 
opinions (often full of genius and of wisdom) seem disparate 
one from another, and out of whose recorded words it is 
impossible to construct a consistent or even intelligible 
system. Like so many orchids, their luxuriant flowers 
attract our eyes, while their sweetness touches our hearts ; 
but when we try to find the root of faith from which such 
beauty has sprung, lo ! some old decaying tree, to which 
the delicate stem lightly adheres, is all we can discover. We 
always seem in the wrong as regards them. They attract 
us, delight us, truly aid our spiritual life by their insight 
and their tender piety. Then we think to make them our 
guides ; but the magi of old might as well have followed a 
fire-fly ! Again, we are provoked, indignant. We condemn 
them, and even in our impatience question their honesty : 
Why does not the man who says this and this, say also 
this and this ? Why does he who avows ideas such as the 

1 The Life and Letters of the Rev. Frederick W. Robertson, M.A., Incumbent 
of Trinity Chapel, Brighton. Edited by Stopford A. Brooke, M.A., late Chaplain 
to tlie Embassy at Berlin. 2 vols. 8vo. London : Smith and Elder. 1865. 


founders of his Church never dreamed of, or condemned 
bitterly if they did, stop within their fold, and profess to 
find green pastures where there are but swine s husks of 
dead symbols ? Hardly have we uttered the question, but 
we are rebuked. " Men so good, so meek of heart, so pure of 
life, so full of high and holy thoughts what are we that 
we should summon them before our tribunal, or judge them 
by the laws of our individual conscience of sincerity ? Let 
us return and hearken to their prophesyings." The books of 
these men are like those districts of Wales and Ireland, 

" Where sparkles of golden splendour 
All over the surface shine." 

Every page has its glittering thought, its grain of pure, true 
gold. But the " Lagenian mine " can somehow never be 
worked to profit. The ore is too mixed and scattered. We 
explore it, and of our spoils make for us a ring of remem 
brance, a locket, perhaps a delicate chain of linked thoughts. 
But we cannot mint it into coin to pass from hand to hand, 
enriching ourselves and the world. 

These reflections have occurred to me while reading the 
Sermons of one of the greatest and purest of these cloudy 
prophets, the lamented Frederick Robertson. They are not 
those which his Biography (which it is now my task to 
review) most prominently suggests. No man of ordinary 
sympathies could read this book and think first of dissecting 
the opinions of its subject, and testing whether, as in a 
child s toy, one piece fitted accurately into another. Few, 
on the contrary, will read it, I am persuaded, without 
being moved to a sad and tender sympathy, that sympathy 
with the soul of our brother wherein his intellectual gifts 
and failures alike become well-nigh indifferent. Robertson s 
name has for some years been one of power in the religious 
life of England. Dating from the publication of this admir 
able Life and these Letters, I believe it will become hence- 


forth a typical one, like those of Arnold and Blanco White. 
The personal impression which he made on those who knew 
him in life, and which always seems to have exceeded (in the 
proportion common to highly emotional characters) the im 
pression received through his written words, will now be 
shared by thousands. I envy not those who can receive 
it without being thereby touched to the heart as by the 
self-disclosure of a friend who should be worthy of all our 
admiration, and at the same time claim from us such com 
passion as may yet be given to one who walked with God on 
earth, and is surely gone home to Him now. 

The tangible facts of the Life of Robertson may be sum 
med up in a few brief sentences. Never had a biographer 
less practical material to work with, scarce even an anec 
dote worth narrating. If the result in this book be in a 
literary sense somewhat monotonous, it is redeemed by 
great simplicity on the part of the biographer, and much 
discriminating analysis of character ; and perhaps I may 
add, by an almost excessive reticence as to family and 
social relations, which would have filled in the background 
of the picture and given it more familiar reality, at the 
expense, perchance, of delicacy wisely respected. Few even 
of the letters have any names attached to them, and if 
they ever contained expressions of individual attachment, 
they have been expunged, leaving much of the true charac 
ter of the letters unexplained. I cannot but think the judg 
ment which dictated this last measure in any case, a mistake. 
Letters are not the same things addressed to persons of dif 
ferent ages, sexes, and characters ; persons with whom the 
writer holds totally different relationships. Many expres 
sions of weariness, annoyance, personal feelings of all kinds, 
such as these letters contain, are natural or morbid, legiti 
mate or else unmanly and egotistical, according to the indi 
vidual addressed, and his or her relationship to the writer. 



In matters like these, of course we are bound to give credit 
to the biographer for having exercised his best judgment 
under circumstances unknown to us. We can but regret 
the fact, and do so the more unhesitatingly, since, whatever 
inimical and slanderous tongues may have said, these letters, 
to whomsoever addressed, bear with them the refutation of 
all calumny, save such as first goads its victim to irritation, 
and then points to the irritation with sanctimonious con 

Again, Robertson s friendships are not only left anony 
mous, but his closest ties and relationships are mentioned 
in the briefest way. His marriage is detailed in one sen 
tence ; and, after the beginning of the work, where one 
beautiful letter to his brother, and a few others to his 
parents are inserted, there is hardly half a page of the two 
bulky volumes devoted to either his early or later home circle. 
What Renan has striven to do for us in the case of Robert 
son s great Master, namely, to give us a clear mental picture 
of the milieu in which his life and thoughts revolved, is 
precisety what Robertson s biographer seems to have care 
fully avoided, till in his care to protect the susceptibilities 
or respect the privacy of the living, he has left us rather 
the startling apparition of " a priest after the order of Mel- 
chisedek," than the portrait of an English clergyman who 
within all our memories was the popular preacher of a fami 
liar Brighton chapel. We can resume the bare facts of his 
career, such as Mr. Brooke gives them, in a single page. 

Frederick William Robertson was the son and grandson 
of soldiers, and from his boyhood was passionately desirous 
of entering the military profession. After a year s futile 
attempt to make him a solicitor, his father endeavoured to 
obtain for him a commission in the army. A long delay 
occurred before the request was granted ; arid during the 
interval, the influence of friends and his father s wishes 


induced Frederick Robertson to enter Oxford and prepare 
for the Church. In 1840 he was ordained, and acted as 
curate first at. Winchester, subsequently at Cheltenham and 
Oxford. Brief journeys to Germany and the Tyrol formed 
his holiday recreation. On one of these occasions, as his 
biographer succinctly states, "he met (at Geneva), and after 
a short acquaintance married, Helen, third daughter of Sir 
G. W. Denys, Bart., of Easton ISTeston, Northamptonshire. 
Almost immediately after his marriage he returned to 
Cheltenham." The "only external events which marked 
the subsequent five years of his life," during which he 
was curate to the Rev. Archibald Boyd, were " the birth of 
three children and the death of one." In 1847 he accepted 
the incumbency of Trinity Chapel, Brighton, and there he 
laboured, becoming each year more beloved and honoured, 
but each year more feeble in health and weary of spirit, till 
in 1853 his condition became alarming, and his congrega 
tion subscribed to supply him with a curate, by whose aid 
his work might be lightened. Robertson chose his friend 
Mr. Tower for the office. The appointment was subject to 
the approval of Mr. Wagner, vicar of Brighton, who had 
previously been engaged in controversy with Mr. Tower on 
financial matters connected with a charitable institution. 
Mr. Wagner refused to ratify the nomination of Mr. Tower, 
and Robertson refused to appoint another curate. During 
the angry contention which thereupon occupied the entire 
population of Brighton, the last chances of recovery for 
Robertson s health were irretrievably lost. A disease whose 
seat seemed to be at the base of the brain, and which caused 
him intense suffering, terminated his life on the 15th of 
August, 1853, in his thirty- seventh year. His last words 
were : "I cannot bear it. Let me rest. I must die. Let 
God do His work." 

Such is the outline of a life which was filled in by a 


thousand touches of piety, genius, and goodness. The study 
of it is indeed purely the study of the man Robertson, not 
of the career of a more or less successful preacher or student 
or reformer. Of the world at large, nothing is to be learned 
from his Biography, save the old lesson, that a good man 
must needs find friends, and a gifted one, admirers, and an 
honest and bold one, enemies. The observations on books 
and on social and religious problems contained in the letters 
are interesting, but rather as affording glimpses into the 
feelings of the writer, than as illuminating the subjects 
themselves in the way a great mind generally effects by 
each passing gleam of notice. Of politics, we only hear 
that Robertson was by sentiment an aristocrat ; but by force 
of his allegiance to the great Reformer of Galilee, who spake 
the parable of Dives, a democrat and an inveigher against 
the luxuries of the rich. Of those works of philanthropy 
which men of his energy usually choose whereon to centre 
their labours, we hear little. Neither the relief of poverty, 
nor the reform of crime, nor the repression of vice, no en 
thusiastic alliance with abolition or temperance movements, 
is to be traced as a thread connecting his efforts at any 
period of his life. One only work did he seem to undertake 
with peculiar zest. The Association of the Working Men 
of Brighton found in him their warmest friend. His Ad 
dresses to them contain some of his very finest thoughts, 
and he appears to have had their cause nearer to his heart 
than any other. If this be so, we may perhaps adjudge to 
Robertson the exalted praise of having been one of the 
very first to turn philanthropy into a new and noble channel 
wherein it has since run freely. Beyond his lectures and 
assistance to the working men, it would seem, however, as if 
his great tenderness of heart poured itself out rather gene 
rally than with any special purpose or object. In a word, 
the power of Robertson was almost unnaturally devoid of 


external or tangible manifestation. Even the religious doc 
trines he taught have singularly little definiteness of shape 
or substance, such as might enable us to account him the 
prophet of this or that truth, or precept. We insensibly 
describe him rather by negatives than affirmatives, and say he 
did not do or teach what others have done or taught, rather 
than that he accomplished such a work or gave to the world 
such a doctrine. We close his Life with the sense (oftener 
left on us by women than by men) that we have been im 
pressed beyond the calculable power of the impressing spirit, 
and attracted rather magnetically than by any gravitation of 
mere mass of mind. He was the living evidence of the 
truth that Character is greater than Action ; and that to be 
good is more effectual to benefit mankind than the doing of 
any work whatsoever. 

The first and most obvious interest to the reader of the 
life of Robertson is the history of his religious opinions. 
It may be told briefly, though less briefly than that of his 
worldly career. 

Whatever be the evils and errors of that form of Chris 
tianity which claims the name of " Evangelical," it must be 
admitted to leave commonly on souls which have received 
its influences in childhood, what we may describe as a high- 
strung spiritual temperament. The early initiation into the 
most solemn mysteries of the inner life ; the perpetual 
strain after a repentance disproportionately meted to childish 
offences ; the awful terrors of eternal woe made familiar 
even before one human sorrow has dimmed the brightness 
of life s morning ; all these features of Evangelical educa 
tion tend to the formation of a moral constitution delicate 
to the verge of disease. Much that is best and holiest, 
much deep sense of the realities of the unseen world, much 
of that keener conscientiousness which never leaves a man 
content with merely outward performance of duty unless 


he also feels the dutiful sentiment, much self-distrust and 
self- depreciation judged by the standard of an almost super 
human purity and devotion, are the legacies of a youth spent 
under the influences of Evangelical Christianity. But, like 
a child who has heen nurtured in heated rooms on too 
stimulating food, and whose brain has been overtaxed by his 
tutors, there are also inherited highly-strung feelings subject 
to morbid excitement and no less morbid exhaustion and 
deadness, for which largest allowance must be made when 
we would estimate the later attainments of one subjected to 
such discipline. Robertson received these influences with 
the peculiar susceptibility of his character, and with the 
additional force derived from, his physical predisposition to 
disease of the brain. It would seem as if there never were 
a temperament of body or mind more needing the calming 
influence of a perfectly healthy creed ; nor one which more 
vividly manifested the results, both for good and evil, of the 
faith in which he was trained, and of the different but far 
from perfectly joyful one in which he lived and died. 

The early Evangelical impressions of Robertson, derived 
apparently from both parents, were full of childlike fervour. 
He seems to have been " good " as a school-boy, in the same 
degree as Channing, whose comrades said of him that ifc 
was no merit in him to be obedient and studious ; he had no 
temptation to be otherwise. His childhood and youth ap 
pear to have been exemplary and faultless. If they were in 
any measure diversified by more natural traits, his biographer 
has erred in suppressing them, for it is to be confessed that 
the impression left on us by these early pages and by certain 
over- wise school-boy letters is not altogether a pleasant 
one. Robertson, indeed, seems to have been a manly boy, 
steady, brave, active, fond of field sports, and enthusiastic 
about military glory ; a " muscular Christian " even in 
his Evangelical days. His ambition, therefore, curiously 


compounded of the different elements of his character, 
took the form of desiring to set " the example of a pure and 
Christian life in his corps, and becoming the Cornelius of his 

regiment To two great objects he devoted himself 

wholly, the profession of arms and the service of Christ." 
When he was persuaded to give up the military career 
and adopt that of a clergyman, which he had often vehe 
mently repudiated, he seems to have done it under a sin 
gular sense of constraint and self-abnegation, and, as his 
biographer expresses it, to have accepted " somewhat sternly 
his destiny." He was, however, at that time, according to 
his friend Mr. Davies, in the full flush of youthful spirits 
and energy. " At the time to which I refer, I never knew 
him otherwise than cheerful, and there were times when 
his spirits were exuberant times when he was in the mood 
of thoroughly enjoying everything. He was a constant and 
prayerful student of his Bible. At this time he held firmly 
what are understood as Evangelical views. He advocated 
strongly the pre- millennial advent of Christ." 

Beginning his residence at Brasenose in October, 1837, 
it was impossible that Robertson should not have been 
drawn into the vortex of the great Tractarian movement 
then in progress. The result seems to have been a speedy 
recoil, and an effort to counteract the tendency among his 
friends by the establishment of a society for prayer and reli 
gious discussion. "No change took place in his doctrinal 
views, which were those of the Evangelical school, with a 
decided leaning to moderate Calvinism." After a college 
course of faultless moral excellence, he was ordained, in 
1840, to a curacy in Winchester. " The prevailing tone of 
his mind on entering the ministry was one of sadness. His 
spirit consumed the body. He never was content, he never 
thought that he had attained, rather that he was lagging 
far behind, the Christian life. Everywhere this is reflected 


in his letters. His feeling of it was so strong, that it seemed 
rather to belong to a woman than to a man, and at certain 
times the resulting depression was so great that he fell into 
a morbid hopelessness." His work at Winchester, however, 
was largely successful, his rector proved a kind and con 
genial friend, and his mode of life seemed the ideal of 
devotion. " Study all the morning ; in the afternoon hard 
fagging at visitation of the poor in the closest and dirtiest 
streets of Winchester ; his evenings were spent sometimes 
alone, but very often with his rector." His habits, indeed, 
here took an ascetic shape, such as by some occult law of 
nature it would appear every strong soul, at the outset of its 
higher life, spontaneously adopts. The Quarantania fast 
of Christ has had its unconscious copyists in every age and 
under every creed. Elijah, and Buddha, and Zoroaster, 
each earned through such means their prophet-mantles, 
and since their day thousands of lesser men have felt that 
" lusting of the spirit against the flesh," in which the spirit 
is ever cruel in its first victory. Robertson, we are told, 
" created a system of restraint in food and sleep. For nearly 
a year he almost altogether refrained from meat. He com 
pelled himself to rise early. He refrained also much from 
society." In some private meditations and resolutions writ 
ten at this time (1843-1845) there occur long strings of 
reasons to fortify the determination to eat with stringent 
self-denial and to rise early ; and the " Resolves " are full 
of that still deeper asceticism which starts from holiest 
ambitions, and, alas ! ends too often in the most morbid self- 
anatomy and self- consciousness. 

" To try to feel my own insignificance. To speak less of self, and 
think less. To feel it degradation to speak of my own doings as 
a poor braggart. To perform rigorously the examen of conscience," 
etc. 1 

1 Pages 99, 100. 


On all this portion of Robertson s life, the biographer 
makes wise and pertinent remarks ; how it was the natural 
result of the school in which he had been trained, and how 
he escaped from it into a manlier spirit, not without bearing 
away some fruit of self-knowledge and of knowledge of other 
men. His sermons, in later years, at Brighton, were full of 
protests against these mistakes of his youth, when his very 
genius seemed under a cloud, and the force and originality 
he was soon to develope were kept under by the restraints 
of his creed. 

A threat of hereditary consumption in 1841, compelled 
him to give up his work at Winchester and go abroad, 
oppressed by a sense of despondency and failure. A 
pedestrian tour, extending to Geneva, soon renewed his 
health and spirits. He plunged into controversy with every 
one who would discuss with him, Catholics, Rationalists, 
Atheists, and " believed that there is at this time a deter 
mined attack made by Satan and his instruments to subvert 
that cardinal doctrine of our best hopes justification by 
faith alone." A Geneva minister denying the " Deity of 
Christ," is told that he cannot be a Christian, and that his 
young monitor " trembles for him." Altogether we have a 
picture of the earnest, narrow, devout Evangelical clergy 
man, familiar enough to all of us who have seen much of 
the world, but who, we have rarely had reason to suppose, 
could in this life assume the spiritual wings of a Robertson, 
and fly like him into free fields of air. 

In the summer of 1842, Robertson became the curate of 
the Rev. Archibald Boyd, then of Cheltenham, a gentleman 
for whom he entertained the greatest respect, and who was 
certainly not likely to have guided him out of the very 
straitest sect of the orthodox. I can remember hearing 
Mr. Boyd about this period preaching at Cheltenham, and 
denouncing Unitarians with such singular vehemence, that 


it induced me to institute careful inquiries concerning a body 
of whose tenets at that time I was in total ignorance. Ro 
bertson was at first in full harmony with Mr. Boyd s opinions, 
but the hour for a great revolution in his soul s history was 

Calvinism, has had its Heroic Age ; the age of the Pilgrim 
Fathers, of Brainerd and of Hopkins. It has an Age of 
Saints still, as many a bed of agonizing disease testifies in 
home and hospital in England to-day. But there is a phase 
of the religion not heroic nor yet saintly ; a phase to check 
the ardour and alienate the allegiance of any man true of 
heart like Robertson. Probably in such a place as a fashion 
able church at Cheltenham, that unlovely phase may be 
met with in its most exaggerated development. 

"At first (says his biographer) he believed that all who spoke 
of Christ were Christ-like. But he was rudely undeceived. His 
truthful character, his earnestness, at first unconsciously and after 
wards consciously, recoiled from all the unreality around him. He 
was so pained by the expressions of religious emotion which fell 
from those who were living a merely fashionable life, that he states 
himself in one of his letters that he gave up reading all books of a 
devotional character, lest he should be lured into the same habit of 
feeling without acting. His conceptions also of Christianity as the 
religion of just and loving tolerance made him draw back with horror 
from the violent and blind denunciations which the religious agitators 
and the religious papers of the extreme portion of the Evangelical 
party indulged in under the cloak of Christianity. They tell lies, he 
said, in the name of God. Others tell them in the name of the 
Devil : that is the only difference. It was this, and other things of 
the same kind, which first shook his faith in Evangelicalism." l 

In 1843 he wrote to a friend : " As to the state of the 
Evangelical clergy, I think it lamentable. I see sentiment, 
instead of principle, and a miserable mawkish religion super 
seding a state which once was healthy. I stand alone, a 
theological Ishmael." In the following year other doubts 
1 Vol. i. p. 108. 


and difficulties arose. His preaching altered in tone, and 
he suddenly awoke to the conviction " that the system on 
which he had founded his whole faith and work could never 
be received by him again." An outward blow the sudden 
ruin of a friendship accelerated the inward crisis ; and the 
result was a period of spiritual agony so awful that it smote 
his spirit down into a profound darkness, and of all his 
early faiths but one remained, "It must be right to do 
right ! " He travelled away to Germany, and there, amid 
the beautiful hills and vales of the Tyrol, in long lonely 
walks and solitary musings, he passed through the great 

He fought his doubts and gathered strength, 
He would not make his judgment blind, 
He faced the spectres of the mind 

And laid them : thus he came at length 

To find a stronger faith his own ; 

And power was with him in the night, 
Which makes the darkness and the light. 

And dwells not in the light alone. 

Never has that dread battle been more faithfully fought ; 
never has the victory been more nobly won. Long years 
afterwards, speaking to those working men with whom 
perhaps of all his hearers he had closest sympathies, men 
from whom most of our preachers would shut out the 
very name of religious doubt, or, if forced to treat of it, 
sternly dismiss them "to the law and to the testimony" 
to these men Robertson disclosed what we cannot doubt 
was the history of his own spiritual struggle and the tri 
umphant peace which followed it. I must be pardoned for 
copying the story at length. Few words, I believe, in any 
book, bear in them seeds of greater usefulness for our day 
of doubt and troubling of the waters. Like every true pro 
phet, Robertson was the forerunner of his brethren, and 


passed before them through the dark river, telling them 
where ground might yet be found for their feet, even in its 
depths, till they should reach " the new firm land of faith 
beyond." For all the thousands who are now passing, and 
must presently pass, through those dread waters, and fear 
lest they go over, even over their souls, and whelm them in 
their deeps for ever, the history of Robertson s transition of 
faith is a most blessed lesson. By that way he went, and 
by that way only, I believe, in our day, shall the .Nations 
of the Saved pass over. 

" It is an awful moment when the soul begins to find that the props 
on which it blindly rested so long are, many of them, rotten, and 
begins to suspect them all ; when it begins to feel the nothingness 
of many of the traditionary opinions which have been received with 
implicit confidence, and in that horrible insecurity begins also to 
doubt whether there be anything to believe at all. It is an awful hour, 
let him who has passed through it say how awful, when this life has 
lost its meaning, when the grave appears to be the end of all, human 
goodness nothing but a name, and the sky above this universe a 
dead expanse, black with the void from which God has disappeared. 
In that fearful loneliness of spirit, when those who should have been 
his friends and counsellors only frown upon his misgivings, and 
profanely bid him stifle doubts which, for aught he knows, may arise 
from the Fountain of truth itself, I know but one way in which a 
man may come forth from his agony scatheless ; it is by holding fast 
to those things which are certain still, the grand, simple landmarks 
of morality. In the darkest hour through which a human soul 
can pass, whatever else is doubtful, this at least is certain If there 
be no God and no future state, yet, even then, it is better to be generous 
than selfish, better to be chaste than licentious, better to be true than false, 
better to be brave than to be a coward. Blessed, beyond all earthly 
blessedness, is the man who in the tempestuous darkness of the 
soul has dared to hold fast to these venerable landmarks. Thrice 
blessed is he who, when all is drear and cheerless within and without, 
when his teachers terrify him and his friends shrink from him, has 
obstinately clung to moral good. Thrice blessed, because his night 
shall pass into clear bright day. I appeal to the recollection of any 
man who has passed through that hour of agony, and stood upon the 


rock at last, the surges stilled below him, and the last cloud drifted 
from the sky above, with a faith and hope and trust no longer tra 
ditional, but of his own a faith which neither earth nor hell shall 
shake thenceforth for ever." 

Here is the "Saints Tragedy " ; nay, the Saints triumph 
ant Drama of Victory ; the " Prometheus Unchained " of 
the inner life for us moderns, with our perishing theologies, 
our science and philosophy presenting to us a daily changing 
phantasmagoria of the material and mental universe. Our 
Apollyons are not the Apollyons of our fathers ; our Valley 
of the Shadow of Death is haunted by far direr spectres, 
and opens into far deeper and more fathomless abysses, 
than ever they beheld. But for us, too, there is a weapon 
to slay the dragon, a path through the realm of darkness 
and despair. Not any close-linked chain-mail of Evidences, 
any buckler of resolute Belief, shall defend us ; scarce may 
we even find strength to send to Heaven one winged arrow 
of Prayer. No guiding Star shall light our way through 
the pitfalls of the Valley. But, fighting blow for blow, 
winning step for step, against every fiend-like passion, every 
hell-born temptation, we shall gain at last the victory ; 
pressing Grod s lamp close to our breasts, 

" Its radiance soon or late shall pierce the gloom ; 
We shall emerge some day." 

One struggle to obey Conscience, when Conscience has been 
for the time bereft of all her insignia of royalty, when she 
no longer claims to be vicegerent of an Almighty Lord, nor 
points with outstretched sceptre to a world where her faith 
ful servants shall be rewarded when their tasks are done ; 
one free and loyal act of obedience to her then, will roll back 
the bars of heaven, as no giant intellectual labours can ever 
help us to do. 

Is this mysterious ? It is the most simple of all the laws 
of Providence. Moral goodness is the character of God. 


To love goodness is to love God, in a far deeper, truer sense, 
than to love any intellectually-conceived idea of a Supreme 
Being, whether revealed or unrevealed. Man meets God 
when he feels godlike feelings and performs godlike acts. 
He gets above and behind all the secondary, third and 
thousandth arguments for believing in God, and finds Him 
at the first and fountain-head of all religious knowledge. 
Small marvel it is if his doubts thenceforth are banished 
for ever. 

Robertson wrote during the fever of his struggle, 

" Moral goodness and moral beauty are realities lying at the base 
and beneath all forms of religious expression. They are no dream, 
and they are not mere utilitarian conveniences. That suspicion was 

an agony once. It is passing away As to the ministry, I am 

in infinite perplexity. To give it up seems throwing away the only 
opportunity of doing good in this short life that is now available to me ; 
yet to continue when my whole soul is struggling with meaning that I 
cannot make intelligible, is very wretched." 

Returning back to England after some weeks work at 
Heidelberg, Robertson accepted from Bishop Wilberforce 
the charge of St. Ebb s Church, Oxford. How he came to 
seek employment in such a quarter is hardly accounted for. 
He was not a High Churchman. " While the Tractarians 
seemed to say that forms could produce life, he said that 
forms were necessary only to support life ; but for that they 
were necessary. Bread cannot create life, but life cannot 
be kept up without bread/ Neither was he a Broad Church 
man of that first school which before the era of Essays and 
Reviews was held to represent the widest views in the 
Church of England. " Though holding Mr. Maurice in 
veneration, he differed on many and important points both 
from him and Professor Kingsley. He was the child of no 
theological father/ A few months, however, terminated his 
labours under the great Tractarian Bishop, and in August, 


1847, Robertson accepted the charge of Trinity Chapel, 
Brighton, the field of his noblest work, the post at which 
he died. 

Trinity Chapel (I speak from the recollection of some 
five-and-twenty years) is an ugly square building, devoid 
of a chancel properly so called, and with green niches 
on either side of the communion-table, the one of course 
serving as desk, the other as pulpit. It was a drowsy, 
dreary locality, much favoured by the schools wherewith 
Brighton abounds. Robertson at once took his part, and 
preached as he thought and as he felt, awakening many 
echoes. " At Oxford he was like the swimmer who has 
for the first time ventured into deep water ; at Brighton 
he struck out boldly into the open sea." From this time 
there does not appear to have occurred any essential modi 
fications of his opinions. He continued to speak out freely 
and with surpassing energy and eloquence, till after six 
brief years his life burnt itself out, and his place knew 
him no more. I need not pursue chronologically the order 
of the few events which diversified his career, but endeavour 
to put together such materials as are given us for forming 
a correct idea of the man his creed and his character, his 
strength and his weakness. 

Mr. Brooke s view of the great work of Robertson is well 
summed up in the following passage : 

" He represented to men, not sharp, distinct outlines of doctrine, 
but the fulness and depth of the Spirit of Christianity. . . . He 
cannot be claimed especially by any one of our conflicting parties. 
But all thoughtful men, however divided in opinion, find in his writings 
a point of contact. He has been made one of God s instruments to 
preserve the unity of the Christian Church in this country. . . . But 
though his teaching was more suggestive than dogmatic, he did not 
shrink from meeting in the pulpit the difficulties involved in many 
of the doctrines of the English Church. His explanation of the 
Atonement, of the doctrine of the sacraments, of absolution, of 


imputed righteousness, of the freedom of the gospel in contrast to 
the bondage of the law, have solved the difficulties of many. He 
believed himself that they were the true solutions. But he also 
believed that the time might come when they would cease to be 
adequate solutions. Yet notwithstanding all this, he had a fixed basis 
for his teaching. It was the Divine-human Life of Christ. He felt 
that an historical Christianity was absolutely necessary, that only 
through a visible Life of the Divine in the flesh could God become 

intelligible to man The Incarnation was to him the centre of 

all history." 1 

The idea which evidently underlies this defence of Ro 
bertson s theology, or rather his Christianity without dog 
matic theology, seems to me partially true and partially 
false. It is true that mere intellectual ideas, whether con 
nected or not with religious belief, have in them no power 
to produce true unity between human souls. Sentiment 
unites men ; opinion only serves, at the best, to make 
partisans and fellow- sectaries. On the other hand, it is 
false to assume that "sharp, distinct outlines of doctrines" 
have in them any necessary antagonism to fervent sentiment, 
or that (according to a belief which seems gaining ground 
in our day) the more misty is a man s creed, the more warm 
are likely to be his affections. Our reaction from Calvinistic 
stiffness is carrying us too far if it persuade us that, to love 
God much, it is needful to be extremely uncertain regarding 
all His dealings and attributes. Hobertson himself, we 
suspect, was a proof that " sharp and distinct outlines of 
doctrine" were no bar to the power of uniting men of various 
denominations ; for he accomplished that end not by lacking 
such distinct outlines, but (among other causes) by very 
distinctly preaching a certain form of Christ- worship attrac 
tive to thousands. What he really seems to have lacked, 
was a logical and self-consistent system. He had sharply- 
defined isolated doctrines in abundance. 
1 Pp. 167, 168. 


The peculiar form of Christolatry to which I have now 
referred, formed so prominent a feature in Bobertson s life 
and religion, as well as in his scheme of theology, that it 
is needful to give it a very important place in any estimate 
of him, as well as being in itself a matter deserving the 
gravest attention of all thinkers of the present age. 

Nothing is more remarkable to one who looks over the 
past and present of Christendom, than to observe how very 
variously the sentiments of professed Christians towards 
their common Lord have differed, apparently without the 
slightest relation to the doctrines they entertained concerning 
his person and office. The isothermal lines (if I may so 
express it) of love to Christ intersect every altitude of intel 
lect, every latitude of opinion. Or rather we may say, that 
as in geological maps all artificial political frontiers and divi 
sions disappear, and, instead of states and provinces, we 
have districts of granite, of sandstone, chalk or clay, so in 
studying Christian Europe beneath the surface, instead of 
meeting again the great divisions of churches and minor 
subdivisions of sects, we find a wholly new chart, wherewith 
the superficial lines have little or no concern. Let us take 
any dozen great religious writers of past times, and any 
dozen more of different existing sectarian denominations, 
and let them all be accounted believers in the actual Deity 
of Christ how immeasurably different is the place which 
He holds, not so much in their opinions as in their affections ! 
One man s writings are, so to speak, saturated with the love 
of the great Teacher. Another merely pays him a brief 
passing homage when the exigencies of his therne seem to 
demand it. Yet no reader may tell that it is either a 
plenitude of religious life or a deficiency of it which makes 
an a Kempis so full of Christ, or a Fenelon or Tauler so 
wrapped in God as to seem well-nigh to forget him. Nay, 
even among those who dogmatically deny Christ s claim to 


worship, lie assumes a position in some minds so prominent, 
in others so far in the background, that, to return to our 
metaphor, the line marking the warmest devotion to him 
must be made to run half through the Unitarian church, 
after threading the heights of Romanism and Tractarianism, 
and descending to the lowest vales of Evangelical and 
Methodistical opinion. Channing and hundreds of Channing s 
disciples seem to make up in personal attachment many times 
more than they deduct from official homage. Even Theists 
who differ in little else, differ, widely as the poles, when they 
come to express their sentiments towards him who, to them 
all, is only the Man of Nazareth. 

Among those who have felt vividly this supreme attraction 
to Christ s character, Robertson stands eminent. From his 
first desire to devote himself, like a knight of old, to "military 
service and the service of Christ," Christ s name seems to 
have been uppermost in his mind and on his lips ; and, as his 
biographer affirms, he endeavoured to bring everything, even 
the petty worries of Brighton scandal, in some occult way to 
the test of the life passed in Galilee eighteen centuries ago. 
He deliberately identifies his whole religion with the ivorship 
of Christ, rather than with the attempt to follow God accord 
ing to the doctrines of Christ. Christianity in his view is 
not so much the religion which Christ taught to men (though 
of course this he would also maintain it to be), as the religion 
which teaches men about Christ. In one of his sermons 
(quoted by Mr. Brooke) he says : " In personal love and 
adoration of Christ the Christian religion consists, and not in 
a correct morality or a correct doctrine, but in a homage to a 
King." In another place he writes to a friend : * " Only a 
human God and none other must be adored by man." Thus 
it appears that his intellect ratified the tendency of his 
feelings. He deliberately made " the Christian religion " 

1 Vol. i., page 290. 


(i.e., his own religion) consist in "love and adoration," not 
of God, but of Christ ; not in morality, not in true belief, 
not in allegiance to the Lord of conscience, but in " homage 
to a King," namely, to Jesus of Nazareth. How far this 
creed harmonized with his other ideas, how it coincided 
with that faith in the supremacy of moral good which he 
must have brought away from that grandest passage of his 
life, when fidelity to his own sense of Duty and Right alone 
saved him amid the shipwreck of all his theology, how far 
the "homage to Christ" could be made the substance of 
religion by one who had learned that lesson I cannot 
explain. It remains one of the thousand self-contradictions 
of the human mind which we are called on only to notice 
and not to reconcile. One remark, however, I must be per 
mitted to make ere we leave the subject. Those who, 
like Robertson, affirm that a " human God and none other 
must be adored by man," seem strangely to forget those 
loftier views of the origin of our knowledge of God which 
at other moments they earnestly maintain. Has the 
Divine Father, then,- indeed so constituted His children, 
and so ordered His relation to them, that they can never 
love Him in His own essential Fatherhood, but only in 
some " hypostasis " of Sonship or Incarnation ? I con 
fess to being somewhat wearied of this doctrine, which we 
meet in our day from a dozen opposite quarters ; a doctrine 
which out-herods Herod, and would have set the Fathers of 
the JSTicean Council aghast. Men who speak of " a human 
God only being knowable or adorable by man," seem to 
have formed for themselves a conception of our mortal 
life as if it were spent in a dwelling close beside the sea, 
yet so constructed as that by no door or window, no loop 
hole or crevice, should the inhabitants behold, or be enabled 
so much as to guess at, the existence of that mighty Deep 
beneath whose thunder the foundations of their dwelling 


tremble, and the voice of whose waters is ever sounding in 
their ears. At length so these teachers would have it 
at length a Mariner from the far-off blessed isles has landed 
on that desolate shore, and said, " Behold the Ocean ! " 

God did not so make for man his tenement of clay. He 
made therein a window opening out to seaward, a window 
where, ofttimes kneeling, he may gaze and wonder and 
adore. The great Mariner indeed has come many mariners 
have come and brought tidings of the boundless expanse, 
the measureless brightness, of that Ocean of all good. But 
their tales would be as idle words, could not each one of us 
for himself look forth and with his own eyes behold the 
Infinite Deep beside him and around. 

To assert that man can only know God as a human God, 
is tantamount to denying that man has any direct conscious 
ness of Deity. But, setting aside the terrible subtraction of 
all the deepest part of our religious feelings which ought (if 
men were but logical) to go with such denial, let us consider 
how such a view can be reconciled with the most familiar 
facts of human nature. There are in us all, various affections 
and sentiments, having each their proper objects and, neces 
sarily, their proper means of knowing those objects. One 
of these affections cannot be substituted or exchanged for 
another ; for if given a different object, it thereupon becomes 
a different affection. There is one affection for a parent, 
another for a child, another for a wife, another for a friend. 
A parent cannot give a filial affection to his son, nor a wife 
a parental one to her husband, nor a man a friendly one to 
an infant. In like manner, there are different affections for 
human beings and for a Being superhuman. The human 
affections (like those of which I have spoken) have for 
their objects our human relatives and friends, all known 
to us through our bodily senses ; the religious affections 
have for their object a Divine Being, not known to us 


through the senses, but through that special organ of con 
sciousness which I have called the Window of the soul 
which opens on Deity. When Comtists talk of the " Re 
ligion of Humanity," and attempt to attach the religious 
sentiment to such an abstraction as this idea of Humanity, 
or to such a concrete image thereof as a dead or living 
woman, we answer confidently, " Not so that is not reli 
gion/ Call the sentiment by what name you please, it 
is not religion, any more than conjugal or parental love 
is religion. It is another sentiment and must have another 
name. Religion is a sentiment having for its object an 
invisible Entity, not an abstraction or a symbol." Just the 
same answer may be fitly given to Christians who tell us that 
" a human God " is to. be alone adored. A " human God " is 
not an object of religion at all, but of esteem, honour, human 
sympathy, or (if such sentiments be transgressed and real 
adoration offered) then of Idolatry, of the sinful transference 
of the sentiment due to God alone to an idol, or being 
having a bodily image. In sober truth, all such wild phrases 
are self- deceptive. Men feel such a profound love and vene 
ration for Christ, that they seek an infinite expression for 
their lawful sentiment, and then call it by a name which 
applies only to the love of God. When they really feel 
religion to Christ, it is when they, like half the Christian 
world, give his beloved name to "his Father and our Father." 
For " Christ" read " God in His attributes of Love and 
Redemption " would be the first correction of an immense 
portion of modern religious literature. 

In the case of Robertson, some clue to the meaning of his 
strange words about a " human God " may perhaps be found 
where he says, 1 " What is it to adore Christ ? To call him 
God, and say, Lord, Lord ? No. Adoration is the mightiest 
love the soul can give call it by what name you will. 
1 Vol. ii., page 171. 


Many a Unitarian, as Channing, has adored, calling it only 
admiration, and many an orthodox Christian, calling Christ 
God, with most accurate theology, has given him only a 
cool intellectual homage." All this is true in a sense, but 
overlooks the fact on which I have been insisting, that the 
affections are not interchangeable, and that the sentiments 
duly given to a -human being are not the sentiments duly 
given to God, or vice versa, any more than conjugal and 
filial and parental affections are interchangeable. Robertson 
insists only on degree. He forgets there is also difference 
in kind, and that to confound the kinds of love introduces 
into the religious life a disorder similar to that brought into 
social life by the misapplication of natural affections. 

What Robertson s creed actually was during the later 
years of his life, it is (strange to say) almost impossible to 
discover. We meet such curious glimpses of it as these 

"If you hate evil, you are on God s side, whether there be a personal 
evil principle or not. / myself believe there is, but not so unquestion- 
ingly as to be able to say, I think it a matter of clear revelation." 1 

Again : 

" Mr. Robertson was not a universalist in doctrine, however he may 
have hoped that universalism was true. My only difficulty, he once 
said to a friend, is how not to believe in everlasting punishment. " 2 

Yet with this possible Devil and probable Hell, Robert 
son managed to attain views of God so high and devout, 
that there has surely never been a reader of his Sermons 
whose heart has not thereby been warmed to more fervent 
piety, and, above all, to the effort to make pious feelings lead 
to holy actions. His abhorrence of the indulgence of religious 
emotions as a luxury was indeed one of the most marked 
features of his character, and one which doubtless the popular 
preacher of a Brighton chapel, no less than the Cheltenham 
curate, had reason to feel pretty frequently. Undoubtedly, the 
1 Vol. ii., poge 64. - Vol. ii., page 163. 


great secret of his influence lay in the reality of his religion. 
This seems a mere truism at first sight, but when we reflect 
how much of self-deception, not to speak of the deception of 
others, " lest we spoil our usefulness," mingles with the religion 
of all save the highest and the holiest, it will be confessed that 
for a man to be in his home what he is in his pulpit, in his 
heart what he is in his books, in his life what he is in his prayer, 
is to be real in a sense which few, alas ! may claim to be. 

The great and peculiar glory of Robertson, in my estima 
tion, was his power to discern the living germ of truth in 
dogmas long wrapped in such hard husks of forms as to 
need genius like his to break them through and give the 
seed within power to fructify once more. He deliberately 
adopted this high task. " I always ask " (he says, in 
a letter dated May 17, 1851) what does that dogma 
mean, and how in my language can I put into form the 
underlying truth, in corrector form if possible, but in only 
approximative form after all. In this way, Purgatory, Ab 
solution, Mariolatry, become to ine fossils, not lies/ Every 
reader of his Sermons must remember how well he fulfilled 
this high purpose, and how under his hand these very 
doctrines came forth out of the dust of ages beautiful and 
full of fresh spiritual life. By this means also it happened 
that Robertson became in so remarkable a degree the har- 
monizer of men of the most opposite denominations. By 
his profound insight he was enabled to get at the truth which 
lies behind Dogma. Now as Truth is one and unchangeable, 
and Dogma only a distorted image of Truth, refracted by the 
atmospheres of those human minds through which it has 
passed and wearing their colours whether of one century or 
another, one race, or people, or church, or philosophy so the 
setting forth of Truth, once more freed from the discolour- 
ations of Dogma, is the most effectual way to unite men who 
have been kept apart by Dogma. Each now sees that his 


truth is also his neighbour s truth ; the same great fact 
of the religious consciousness, the same idea of God and 
duty, the same universal phenomenon of the inner life. 
He perceives that it has only been the Dogma discolouring 
it which made it appear different. Henceforth, now that 
each knows the living truth to be the same for himself and 
his neighbour, he not only feels reconciled to his neighbour, 
but united with him. He learns perfect indulgence for his 
neighbour s dogma, and much indifference for his own. The 
root of bitterness is extirpated. 

In another manner, also, this particular work confers an 
immense benefit on mankind. He who can stand before 
us as the Interpreter of the Past, does much to strengthen 
all that is best in the Present. In the last century, Protes 
tants and Deists joined in holding up to contempt as utterly 
valueless those elder dogmas, which, once living and beau 
tiful, had one by one become dead, and then had been 
embalmed by the Church of Rome and placed like so many 
saints in her shrines as things to be worshipped by believing 
and adoring crowds, not rudely uncovered and gazed upon 
by common mortals. Robertson was perhaps the first and 
greatest of those who in our age have striven to undo the 
mischief alike of the Romish embalming, and the contumely 
wherewith Protestants had torn these mummies from their 
tombs and made them mere objects of curiosity or derision. 
He has aided us to see that the men of the primitive ages 
were men of like passions and like thoughts with ourselves, 
and that it was much more the clothing of their thoughts, 
the forms wherewith the mental fashion of that bygone 
world naturally dressed them, than any real difference in 
the thoughts themselves which distinguish them from our 
own. To feel this thoroughly is to resume the heirlooms 
of our race, to feel ourselves the " heirs of all the ages," the 
lawful inheritors of wisdom doubly precious because tested 


by the currency of millenniums. The philosophy of the 
eighteenth century believed itself of mushroom birth, and 
adopted all the rude airs of an upstart. The better philo 
sophy of the nineteenth seeks to attach itself to the noblest 
names in the spiritual pedigree of the human race, and 
speaks with somewhat of the calm dignity of one who 
though far surpassing his fathers, yet deems himself to come 
of goodly stock and worthy parentage. 

On the other hand, there are not a few dangers connected 
with this rehabilitating of discredited dogmas ; dangers, 
above all to candour and simplicity. From these, however, 
Robertson was nobly, I had almost written, splendidly, 
exempt. No one could tax him with "putting new wine 
into old bottles," in the spirit of that Janus-preaching we 
hear so often ; one face for those who adhere to the Past, 
and one for those who aspire to the Future. He was beyond 
the suspicion of tampering with the purest simplicity of 
the truth, as he understood it ; nay, he seemed to desire to 
find always to express his thoughts, not old consecrated 
words which remain for ever burdened with first associa 
tions, but the freshest phrases of English life of to-day 
wherein his meaning might be absolutely transparent. And 
one other great service llobertson did for us. He taught in 
a thousand forms the truth, best expressed in one of his 
Sermons, where he says, that the Yineyard is made indeed 
for the culture of vines, but if vines be found healthy and 
full of fruit outside the vineyard, they are none the less 
therefore to be accounted true vines. Perhaps the relation 
of the Church to the individual soul was never more happily 
exemplified. Brought home, as by Robertson s eloquence, to 
a thousand hearts, we all owe much, and shall year by year 
owe more, to this lesson, gradually spreading among minds 
whose orthodox creed would formerly have seemed to be a 
wall of partition forbidding them to recognize any test of 


Divine Sonship in those who " followed not us " ; or any 
fruit in the vines which grow outside the vineyard. 

With pleasure we see from this Biography that practically 
he felt no less than preached such liberalism. We read/ 
" He revered and spoke of Dr. Channing as one of the truest 
and noblest Christians of America. He was deeply indebted 
to his writings." And again : u He read James Martineau s 
books with pleasure and profit. The influence of The 
Endeavours after the Christian Life may be traced through 
many of his sermons. Theodore Parker he admired for his 
eloquence, earnestness, learning and indignation against evil, 
and against forms without a spirit, which mark his writings. 
But he deprecated the want of reverence and the rationaliz 
ing spirit of Parker." 2 

I must pass briefly over the private character of this 
noble man. The Biography we are reviewing, in spite 
of all its warm eulogiums and discriminating criticisms, will 
probably be felt by most readers to leave much to be desired 
in the filling up of the picture of Robertson s character. 
Those who personally and intimately knew Mr. Hobertson 
affirm that he was a most warm-hearted man, capable of 
strong attachment, and I can hardly think his biographer 
has done wisely in eliminating so completely the traces, or at 
least all means of identifying the traces, of the friendships 
of his manhood from these volumes. 

In a most vigorous defence of Tennyson from the charge 
of overstrained enthusiasm for Arthur Hallam, he says : 

" The friendship of a school-boy is as full of tenderness and jealousy 
and passionateness as even love itself. I remember my own affection 
for G. R. M. How my heart beat at seeing him ; how the conscious 
ness that he was listening while I was reading annihilated the presence 
of the master ; how I fought for him ; how to rescue him at prisoner s 

1 Vol. ii., page 171. 

2 I cannot pause to answer, for the thousandth time, the imputation conveyed 
in the last paragraph. 


base turned the effect of mere play into a ferocious determination, as 
if the captivity were real ; how my blood crept cold with delight when 
he came to rescue me or when he praised me." l 

Yet, after his boyhood, we are hardly admitted to guess 
even the names of those he loved best. He details continu 
ally to his anonymous correspondents little circumstances 
of his life which read like the pictures drawn for a friend s 
perusal of the life of an invalid woman, but the passages 
which should account for such pages are withheld. Again, 
we are assured, by those who knew him best, that he dis 
played great gentleness and magnanimity regarding the mis 
representations and slanders heaped on him. The printed 
fragments of letters unfortunately recall what, in such case, 
must have been almost his sole utterances of indignation, 
weariness, and complaint. These are, doubtless, unfortunate 
results of a system which yet it is probable the biographer 
was justified in following. At least his own testimony, and 
that of many who knew Robertson more intimately, should 
be generally known, to absolve him from suspicions of weak 
ness which these severed fragments may suggest. 

We are told that Robertson s eloquence became obvious 
from the first sermon he ever preached. He was, as I may 
venture to add, like his biographer, eloquent in the best sense, 
that is, rich in thoughts, as well as in words to clothe his 
thoughts. His voice was fine, his person (it is said) even 
unfortunately handsome. The photograph and the bust 
give the idea of a man too slender of make, with too narrow 
chest and drooping shoulders, and a head too high and 
defective in depth to make such storms of emotions as he 
habitually underwent otherwise than perilous. To use Canon 
Kingsley s phrase, there was a complete lack of " healthy 
animalism" about his head and figure. To compensate for 
this, however, he was soldier-like in bearing as in taste ; 

Page 81. 


"muscular" before the term became the cant name for his 
school of theology. Nay, he was not only a soldier, but 
also to the backbone a sportsman. We have all heard the 
remark that a man rarely enjoys a walk in the country during 
which he has not had the chance of killing something. With 
out discussing this supposed evidence of manliness, I confess 
to a little pain at finding Robertson writing, that " as he had 
not a gun" he could not discover what some sea-gulls were 
eating. Even these beautiful and harmless sea-birds, which 
a Turk deems it sin and pity to destroy, would, it seems, 
not have been safe from his slaughter. Robertson s love of 
sport, indeed, led him far. With his sisters one after another 
dying of consumption and his own constitution continually 
threatened, we read that " he would walk for hours after a 
single bird, and reluctantly leave off the pursuit of this coy 
grouse when night began to fall. He would sit for hours in 
a barrel sunk in the border of a marsh waiting for wild 
ducks. These hours of delight (says his biographer) he 
obtained once a year." 1 All, doubtless, very manly and 
" muscular," but a curious study withal ! A great religious 
Teacher, cheered by the sublime hope of killing a fowl, sitting 
"for hours in a barrel sunk in a marsh," and counting the time 
spent in such durance as " hours of delight," is a spectacle 
at which the feeble feminine mind stands by in amazement. 
Robertson s feelings about women form a remarkable 
feature in his character. In his early boyhood he seems to 
have had a sort of worship for them, like that of an old 
knight of romance. Later in life, a high and most pure 
tenderness of feeling marks almost all his intercourse. In 
one letter he remarks, " I rather agree with the view of St. 
Paul having taken personally a low estimate of women. It 
seems to me inseparable from his temperament. . . . That 
respectful chivalry of feeling which characterizes some men 

1 Page 198. 


can only exist where that is found which St. Paul lacked." 
In another letter soon afterwards, he says : " In the estimate 
formed of women, I should think there cannot be a doubt 
which is the truer and deeper, that which makes her a 
plaything, or that which surrounds her with the sacredness 
of a silent worship. A temperament like that of St. Paul s 
is happier, and for the world more useful." It is rather 
surprising to think that to such a man as Eobertson there 
was no medium between a "plaything" and a being "sur 
rounded with the sacredness of a silent worship ; " and that 
while considering the latter view " truer and deeper," he 
attributed the "plaything" theory to the great apostle of 
the Gentiles, and considered it (though less true and 
deep) " happier, and for the world more useful! " The 
"usefulness" of making half the human race playthings 
for the other half, is surely open to some discussion ! Again, 
this man, with his " sacred and silent worship," did not 
shrink from attributing to the objects of this " worship " 
a corruption and baseness which I may venture to say few 
women could hear of without indignation. He writes : " I 
do believe that a secret leaning towards sin, and a secret 
feeling of provocation and jealousy towards those who have 
enjoyed what they dare not, lies at the bottom of half the 
censorious zeal for morality which we hear. I am nearly 
sure it is so with women in their virulence against their 
own sex ; they feel malice because they envy them" 1 A 
virtuous woman malicious to an unchaste one because she 
envies her, seems to me rather an unworthy object of "the 
sacredness of a silent worship " ; nay, even of being made 
the "plaything" of an honest man. Will men never have 
done with this jargon of inflated and impossible reverence; 
this under-current of vilest mistrust and contempt ? 

When Eobertson was a boy, he is recorded to have been 



full of life and gaiety, but from the time lie grew up lie 
appears to have been constantly subject to morbid depres 
sion. At first there were alternating fits of cheerfulness 
and gloom ; but at last he seems to have deliberately justi 
fied himself in condemning mirth and adopting a fixed 
melancholy. In one place, after a touching description of 
the sufferings of a poor soul he had visited, he says, inci 
dentally, of his general habit, " My laugh is now a ghastly, 
hollow, false lie of a thing." l In another place, detailing 
a meeting of men assembled to thank him for his instruc 
tions, he says, "The applause was enthusiastic, yet all seemed 
weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable. In the midst of the 
homage of a crowd, I felt alone and as if friendless." 2 
Again, in 1852, he writes : " All was warm and effervescing 
once, now all is cold and flat. If a mouse could change into 
a frog, would the affections be as warm as before, albeit they 
might remain unalterable ? I trow not ; so I only say you 
have as much as a cold-blooded animal can give, whose pul 
sations are something like one per minute." Again we are 
told : " He also felt deep sympathy with that want of the 
sense of the ridiculous in \Vordsworth, which made all the 
world, even to its meanest things, a consecrated world. The 
ludicrous now rarely troubles me, he says ; all is awful." 3 
It would be hard, I venture to think, to put more deplorable 
and distorted ideas into one sentence. That the want of a 
sense could be a subject of congratulation a sense the source 
of incalculable innocent gratification, the corrector of all taste, 
the true correlative of the sense of the sublime, to which it 
bears the relationship which tenderness does to strength to 
rejoice in the loss of this God- given aid to cheer us over the 
stony places of life, and then to sit down and say that this 
sense rarely troubles him, for "all is awful," is (in my humble 
thinking) to fall into some of the worst errors of Calvinism. 
1 Vol. ii. page 58. 2 Vol. ii. page 107. 3 Vol. ii. page 175. 


Shall I be pardoned if I write of a contrast suggested 
to me by these expressions, and by those of distaste for his 
work, of morbid annoyance at the attacks of the Record 
newspaper, and, lastly, of continual longing to end his task 
and die ? There was another Reformer who died soon after 
Robertson, worn out like him in the prime of manhood by 
his labours. He also was abused and vilified, and more 
cruelly so than Robertson, since life and limb were often in 
his case in peril. There was in his home-life a want 
Robertson never felt, which the other felt keenly : the 
absence of children. Taking all in all, in outward circum 
stances there was not much to choose as to happiness 
between one lot and the other. But let any one take up 
the Biography of Theodore Parker (not comparable as a 
literary work to that of Robertson), and read page after 
page telling of his delight in his task, his gratitude to God 
when his labours were blessed by helping, perchance, some 
poor backwoodsman, some stranger far away, his manly 
scorn of danger and actual good-humour to those who reviled 
and threatened him, his joyousness of spirit, revelling in 
innocent jest and mirthfulness to the last, let him read his 
letters, overflowing with friendliness and tenderness to 
brother, wife, teacher, friend, disciple, as if his heart were 
a very treasure-house of all the kindly emotions, let him 
watch him at last when his health failed and he left his 
place in sorrow, wishing yet to spend and be spent, desiring 
to live, for "the world was so interesting and friends so 
dear," and dying at last with the words on his lips, " I am 
not afraid to die, but I would fain have lived to finish my 
work ; I had great powers ; I have but half used them : " 
let him compare these lives and these feelings on the verge 
of the grave, and then say whose was the healthier creed, the 
sounder thought of God and human destiny ? We must not 
press such parallels far. There is ever injustice in doing so; 


and the law by which the joyous nature chooses a joyful 
creed and is thereby for ever confirmed in its joyousness? 
and the depressed and morbid mind chooses a sad creed and 
is thereby made more morbid, had probably never stronger 
exemplification than in the case of the sturdy New- England 
farmer s son and the over-sensitive English gentleman. 
Parker had a hero s soul in a body which, till he thoroughly 
wore it out, fairly bore its part in the " give and take " 
of matter and spirit. Robertson had an angelic soul, ap 
parently never fitted to bear this world s jars and strug 
gles, lodged in a body where every nerve was strung to 
torture, and brain disease seemed to be indigenous. To 
ask of the two the same bearing, the same spirit, would be 
unjust. Yet it must remain at least as the lesson of the 
two Biographies, that the religious faith which animated 
the life of Parker and upheld him in death was pre-emi 
nently the healthiest conceivable in all its results ; and that 
the belief adopted by the devout and noble-hearted E/obert- 
son left him, on the other hand, to a condition of sentiment 
and a view of human life which must almost be qualified as 
morbid. It is not allowable to ask, Was not such differ 
ence, in a measure at least, the legitimate result of the 
difference of their creeds in that one supreme point whereon 
they separated ? Were not the joyous trust, the love of his 
work, the delight in success, the carelessness of rebuke, the 
longing to live, which characterized the one and the gloom 
and depression which hung, deeper and heavier year by year, 
over the other both the natural results of their opinions? 
The one saw, as the central Power of the universe, a radiant 
Sun of Light and Love, "with whom was no darkness at 
all " ; and the other beheld an awful vision of blackened 
heavens and rending graves, and over all, upon the torturing 
Cross, an Agonizing God. 



IT is a fact so familiar as to be proverbial, that there are 
some things in which all human beings feel alike ; that 
" one touch of nature makes the whole world kin." It is 
also a fact, though a less recognized one, that there are 
again other things in which individuals, classes, and nations 
feel so differently, that the display of their peculiar sensi 
bilities, far from making others feel akin, inspires them 
with something very like aversion. To take our examples 
only from the largest instances, the various passions and 
sentiments of the Classic and of the Teutonic nations rather 
jar on one another than call out any hidden harmony ; and 
in our own day, English reserve and German gemuthlichkeit t 
the "sentimens delicats " of a Frenchman and the " fervido 
cuore " of an Italian, have the least possible attraction the 
one for the other. Till we have lived long in each country, 
fed on its literature, and drank the wine of friendship with 
its sons and daughters, we are rather offended than won by 
its peculiar spirit ; rather tempted to laugh at than to be 
softened by its tenderness. Perhaps we " insular Britons " 
feel this an ti- social repulsion more than others ; at all events, 

1 Le Christ et la Conscience. Par Felix Pecaut. 12mo. Paris: Cherbuliez 
et Cie. 

De V A.venir du Theisme Chretien considers comme Religion. Par Felix Pecaut. 
12mo. Paris : Cherbuliez et Cie. 



we show it more candidly. How cordially most of us 
dislike " German sentiment," with its (wholly imaginary) 
tendenc}^ to lax morality, and the unlimited indulgence in 
smoke, metaphorical and actual ! How we abhor American 
"bunkum" and "tall talk." Above all, how we distrust 
French ideas, French phrases, French, turns of thought, 
the pitiless logic, the unattackable dialectics, the senti 
mental hyperboles, of a true French writer ! To hear 
a Frenchman talk of "la femme," with mingled gallantry, 
fathomless pity, and acute curiosity, is enough to set John 
Bull, who has known Mrs. Bull by heart these twenty 
years, and finds her a good, comfortable wife, not in the 
least mysterious or pitiable, stamping with rage. To find 
him apostrophizing a mother, " Une mere, voyez vous c est 
une chose," etc., etc., and winding up every peroration with 
the Divine Name as a grand rhetorical flourish, is cause 
enough to justify all the wars of history. We don t like to 
hear that Napoleon lost Waterloo because, as M. Hugo says, 
" il genait Dieu." First, we don t believe in such a philo 
sophy of history ; and, secondly, we are less shocked by a 
man breaking the third commandment for the purpose of 
devoting somebody s eyes to eternal perdition, than for that 
of producing a rhetorical coup de theatre. 

Yery naturally, these national antipathetic feelings come 
out most strongly in the case of the deepest and most 
sacred sentiments, wherein a single jarring note is always 
painfully discernible. The intensity of pleasure we derive 
from complete religious sympathy, is only paralleled by the 
soreness of the mental ear to which approximate, but im 
perfect, harmonies are presented. The nearer the approxi 
mation may be, if the harmony is not achieved, the worse is 
the jar. Thus when we read the religious writings of Pagans 
or Moslems, we feel no annoyance at the wide divergence 
between their expressions of piety arid our own. But the 


habitual variations from our tone of sentiment of another 
and intimately known Christian nation, by whom the same 
order of ideas is discussed with similar power, is a stone of 
stumbling we cannot easily overpass. I believe I shall 
not misrepresent our countrymen if I say, that to nineteen 
out of twenty English readers of the most thoughtful classes, 
the rich religious literature of France is almost unknown, 
not from any inability to appreciate it, or, in the main, from 
any great difference of opinion with its authors, but because 
of a certain latent objection to see sacred sentiments in 
the dress in which French taste habitually clothes them, 
and from a dislike even to the terminology of Gallic 

Nor is this antipathy (doubtless just as reasonably reci 
procated by French readers towards English writers) con 
cerned specially with differences of opinion, such as those 
which render the peculiar phrases of our own High-church 
and Low- church, orthodox and liberal parties, mutually so 
distasteful. English Catholics are not particularly fond of 
Bossuet and Massillon, and I believe that few English 
evangelical Protestants would read without disgust the 
exhortations of M. Adolphe Monod to regard the awful 
Creator as debonnaire, and to address Him in prayer always 
with confidence in this astounding attribute of the " debon- 
nairete de Dieu." Nay, to English liberals of even the 
least reverential section, by whom Strauss s opinions are fully 
accepted, the Vie de Jesus of M. Kenan, with all its poetry 
and even tenderness of feeling towards Christ, is invariably 
somewhat shocking ; and while they can coolly read a 
grave German debate as to whether imposture mingled in 
his performance of miracles, they turn with a sense of 
indignation from hearing him styled " ce charmant doc- 
teur," who was "jaloux pour la gloire de son Pere," in 
the beauty of Magdalenes, and proffered " delicieuses para- 


boles 7 of the Prodigal Son to the petit socieie of fishermen 
and douaniers. 1 

It is a circumstance worthy of very joyful recognition 
that there is a school of theological writers now arising in 
France between whom and our English sensibilities no such 
barrier as that I have described has any existence, and 
with whom, whether we coincide with them or not in matters 
of opinion, the most reverent of us are sure to sympathize 
profoundly in sentiment. Perhaps here also may be found 
one proof the more of the truth, that the nearer any mind 
approaches to a strictly monotheistic faith, so much will it 
gain in spontaneous reverence of spirit ; so much the further 
will it be from the hateful familiarity of cant on one side, 
and the rude defiance of atheism on the other. 

I do not design in this article to give any general 
account of French liberal Protestantism, of which M. Bost 
has lately issued so able a defence, 2 and which numbers 
among its teachers such able and excellent men as M. Albert 
Reville of Rotterdam, MM. Coquerel and Martin Paschoud 
of Paris, M. Gaufres President of the Institution Duplessis- 
Mornay, M. Fontanes of Havre, M. Zaalberg of the Hague, 
and MM. Colani and Leblois of Strasbourg. My object is to 
introduce to better acquaintance one writer of the school 
whose works seem pre-eminently qualified to interest Eng- 

1 So completely has this English repulsion to Kenan s tone been recognized 
by the most clever of our ecclesiastical parties, that something very like an 
instigation to read the Vie de Jesus may be traced in all allusions to the work 
in the High-church organs. It is, of course, " fearfully blasphemous ; " still 
it is so original, poetical, learned, attractive in all ways, that strong minds, 
well rooted in the faith, may be tempted to read it, and (as the reviewers know 
very well) induced to confound it and all books of liberal theology in common 
disgust. On the other hand, such works as Jowett s, Colenso s, and Martineau s, 
have (if we may believe these critics) nothing in them in the slightest degree 
novel or interesting. They are the dangerous books from which orthodoxy in 
earnest strives to deter all readers. 

2 "Le Protestantisme Liberal. Par M. le Pasteur Th. Bost." 1 vol. 12mo. 
Paris : Germer Bailliere. 


lish readers. There are, I believe, few liberal thinkers 
amongst us who will not rejoice to come into contact with a 
mind at once so lofty, so wide and so profoundly devout, as 
that of M. Felix Pecaut. 

The first of M. Pecaut s books known to us is an essay of 
considerable length, Christ and the Religious Consciousness. 
The second is a shorter work, On the Future of Christian 
Theism considered as a Religion 1 (1864). 

When Strauss and Renan and the other great critics of 
our time afford us their lights to judge what was and was 
not true of the recorded words and deeds of the historical 
Christ, and construct for us images more or less vivid of 
what they suppose him to have actually seemed as a living 
person upon earth, they do but accomplish a portion of the 
task which lies before the theologian who shall effectually 
rectify the errors of the past and map out the creed of the 
future. They show us what Christ (probably) was ; and this 
step being (approximately) ascertained, they leave us to 
estimate the place he ought to hold in the religion of man 
kind. But why he has occupied for eighteen centuries a very 
different place from that to which their theories would thus 
consign him, why he now holds such supreme dominion 
over countless thousands of hearts, what is the value of 
their alleged spiritual experience of his power, in a word, 
what is the basis of fact in human consciousness which 
underlies popular Christianity -this the mere historical 
critic cannot help us to learn. We want the philosopher, 
the religious man, nay, the man of double religious experi 
ence, who has felt all the great phenomena of the inner life 
under the two dispensations of supernaturalism and natu- 

1 Both published by Cherbuliez et Cie., Paris, and to be had of Messrs. "Williams 
and Norgate, Henrietta-street. Beside these, M. Pecaut has since published 
Four Conferences on Liberal Christianity and Miracles, and several minor pieces. 


ralism, to tell us this. And it is the real crux of the 
problem. Historical truth ought logically, no doubt, to 
harmonize absolutely with consciousness, and must do so when 
men have fully received and digested it. But as a matter of 
common every-day life, it is our own consciousness of how 
an historical fact affects us which inclines us to adjust its 
records to our political or social bias ; and as a matter of 
religious experience we may safely affirm that every 
argument in Strauss s arsenal must inevitably fall dead on 
the mind of a man who imagines he recognizes in his own 
soul the positive experience of Christian phenomena dis 
proving them all. If Christ s atonement has saved him, it 
is quite clear that Christ was not what Strauss asserts him to 
have been. It is the real, actual relation of Christ to the 
consciousness of humanity, the question of " Le Christ et la 
Conscience," which we must decide, if we want not only to 
open the way to fresh light, but to shut the door on the 
perpetual and eternal recurrence of error. 

This task it is which M. Pecaut undertakes, namely, a 
very careful examination of the actual facts of the inner 
consciousness of devout persons as regards their supposed 
relation to Christ, and an inquiry as to how far these facts 
testify to the reality of such relation. In conducting this 
most solemn investigation into the penetralia of the soul, 
M. Pecaut proceeds by the simple process of discussion 
between a Theist and a man of the very widest and most 
enlightened type of what we in England should designate 
as Broad Church views ; and I can only say that as regards 
the fairness of the representation of these views, few books 
written by professed adherents have seemed to me to give 
so noble and beautiful an exposition of them. Even were 
the result of the discussion a matter of indifference, it would 
be a great gain merely to read such a delineation of deep 
spiritual experience. But the conclusion towards which 


the long argument winds itself bears in truth the highest 
value. It is, that the supposed experience of any action 
on the soul by Christ as an Incarnate Deity (i.e. as distinct 
from the historical Teacher and Exemplar) cannot be main 
tained ; and that the One God and Father in His own person 
fills the whole circle of the soul s heaven ; in Himself alone 
Creating, Redeeming, and Sanctifying God. 

Few things are more needed to amend our current phi 
losophy than the adoption of sounder ideas concerning the 
proper scope and domain of what is called " consciousness." 
It is small marvel that materialists should make light of 
arguments founded on this basis, while those who use them 
indulge in the wildest licence in setting down to the credit 
of consciousness notions which, from the constitution of the 
human mind, cannot possibly be derived from such a source. 
Every day we may behold historical events, ecclesiastical 
dogmas and metaphysical theories, thus treated as "first prin 
ciples" and "facts of consciousness," till the jest of the Ger 
man Professor, "constructing the idea of the camel out of his 
moral consciousness," appears a plain statement of the actual 
method which our divines and philosophers are in the habit of 
adopting when they "evolve" a scheme of theology or ethics. 
Till we have corrected this absurd error, and confined the 
use of the word "consciousness" to things of which it is 
possible for a man to have moral or spiritual perception, 
we shall but waste words in arguing, and at the same time 
bring undeserved discredit on the source fallible, indeed, 
yet still the ultimate and highest source of our knowledge. 

Probably, as regards religious consciousness in particular, 
a considerable amount of lucidity would be gained were 
we to relinquish the vague term " sentiment," and adopt 
the plain phrase the RELIGIOUS SENSE. To those who believe 
in the sacred mysteries of Divine communion, in the reality 
of those events of the inner life which constitute the history 


of every regenerated soul, the words "a religious sense" 
scarcely can appear metaphorical. They express, perhaps, 
as simply as may be, the fact acknowledged by all such 
believers, that there is in man an Eye of the spirit which 
truly beholds God, an Ear which hears His voice, a Feeling 
which perceives His ineffable presence in the high hour of 
visitation. Of course the phrase is unfit for the use of those 
who deem these things uncertain or illusive, but all the 
more is it suitable for those who steadfastly hold to their 

Supposing such a term to be generally adopted, it is clear 
that the result would follow, that a misapplication of the 
organ in question would be more easily detected than while 
the vaguer phrases of Sentiment or Consciousness were em 
ployed. To say, for instance, that a man s religious sense 
assures him of an historical fact (such as the life of Christ), 
would speedily be recognized as no less absurd than to say 
that a man s moral sense supplied him with the zoological 
fact of the camel s conformation. In either case, once we 
are compelled to define the faculty we speak of, we in 
evitably perceive the absurdity of transferring to it the 
office of another and wholly different faculty namely, the 
intellect, as informed either by testimony or the bodily 

Again, in the case of another error, favoured by some of the 
leading minds of our day, the phrase "religious sense" serves 
to dissipate the obscurity of the language usually employed 
on the argument, and to reveal the untenability of their 
position. It is alleged by some excellent men, attached by 
strong affection to Christianity, yet unable to find in either 
Church or infallible Bible firm anchorage for their faith, 
that they know by direct consciousness that there is an Incar 
nate Deity, and that He acts immediately upon their souls. 
Now that the religious sense may and does inform us of the 


action (and consequently of the existence) of a divine, in 
visible Lord and Guide, is what we most heartily believe. 
But that it can inform us further that the Being whose awful 
monitions or blessed consolations or sanctifying influences 
it receives, is not God the Father and is God the Son, is 
what cannot in any way be proved in accordance with the 
known laws and nature of the sense in question. Nothing 
but a special revelation to the individual soul that such was 
the case (a revelation of which, so far as we are aware, no 
claim has ever been made), could enable a man to assert 
that he had made such a discovery. Nay, it is probable 
that none of those who hold by this peculiar form of Chris 
tian evidence would actually lay claim to the power of 
making such a distinction between the divine agents whose 
influences they experience, on any other ground than that, 
the common voice of Christendom having assured them that 
the work of God on the soul was triformous, they have 
always classified their experiences on such an hypothesis, 
and referred them accordingly to the Creator, the Redeemer, 
or the Sanctifier. Such a process would be most natural 
and blameless under the circumstances ; and the consequent 
conviction that there were really three Divine influences 
perceived by the soul, would follow of course. Yet by no 
means can the calm inquirer admit such testimony to 
prove the existence of three Divine Persons, any more 
than the similar testimony of Romanists can be admitted to 
prove the invisible influence of Mary and the Saints. The 
religious sense cannot be held competent to witness such 
multiplicity of Divine Persons, for by no means conceivable 
could it discern the difference between one and another, 
save under the contingency of a moral difference in their 
monitions perceptible to the moral sense. If there were a 
Devil, a man might perfectly distinguish his influence 
from that of God. But every inward sanctifying influence 


is the same as God s influence. How, then, can it be dis 
tinguished therefrom ? 

Surely the truth which underlies all our differences, all 
the mystery of prayer, heard, and felt to be heard, even 
by those who have offered it under the most cloudy con 
ceptions of God, is simply this. There is a voice which 
calls to us all through the thick darkness of our mortal night. 
We hear it, and give it many different names ; but it is the 
same voice always. And we answer that voice, philosopher 
or peasant, saint or sinner, all alike, 

" Infants crying in the night, 
Infants crying for the light, 
And with no language but a cry." 

And the Great Parent who is " about our bed " hears us all ; 
hears His poor helpless children none the less if some 
times they call in their ignorance on other than any of 
His thousand names. Even an earthly mother leaves not 
her babe un tended because it cries to nurse or brother 
rather than to herself, who loves it better than any beside 
may love. 

It is on the whole subject of these inner evidences of 
what we may term Broad-church Christianity, as opposed to 
strictly Unitarian Theism, that M. Pecaut writes ; and with 
a depth of insight, a tenderness of feeling even towards the 
opinions from which he most widely differs, which make 
his book in itself a lesson of piety and charity. It would 
seem as if he had laboured to represent the interlocutor who 
takes the more orthodox side of the argument as the most 
able and the most devout of the two. Certainly fairness 
towards an antagonist can no further go; and if the argument 
in favour of a real Christian consciousness as distinguished 
from a simple consciousness of God be found to fail, the 
conclusion can hardly be avoided, that no true handling of 
the subject would have resulted differently. It is obviously 


vain in the compass of a review to give any fair abstract of 
such a work, whose value lies in the cumulation of details 
of sentiment, all needing tender and reverent treatment. 
I shall, therefore, in the remaining pages of this article 
attempt to give an account of M. Pecaut s second and 
smaller, but by no means less interesting book, L jLvenir du 
Theisme Chretien. The questions of which it treats are thus 
stated in the Preface : 

" Will France dispense with a religion and a cultus ? "Will she be 
Catholic ? Will she be Protestant ? Will she cease to be Christian ? 
Is a national religion henceforth incompatible with the free exercise 
of criticism and the principles of science ? Can a people found public 
and private morals, support liberty, explore the highways of intellectual 
activity, and keep alive in its breast those noble ambitions whose aim 
is the True, the Good and the Beautiful in a word, can it deserve to 
live, without the aid of a, religion conformed to its degree of civili 
zation ? " 

To those who are interested in these questions the author 
addresses himself. He begins by asserting that, for all so 
much is said of the universal decay and disruption of ancient 
creeds and ecclesiastical institutions, 

" these creeds and institutions have never been appreciated with 
more impartiality and even sympathy than at present. Never have 
their doctrines, their martyrs, their merits of all kinds, obtained more 
complete justice. Never have they on their part displayed a zeal 
more pure and active, whether for the propagation of dogma or for the 
foundation of works of charity. Yet public feeling recedes from them. 
The religious reaction of the beginning of our century, which seemed 
calculated to stop for ever the philosophic undertaking of the age 
of Voltaire and Rousseau, was not long in changing to a serious 
movement in a different direction. We still continue to condemn the 
Encyclopaedists for their lack of comprehension of antiquity, their 
profane levity in sacred studies, their want of moral depth ; but, on the 
other hand, we have understood that their errors and excesses must 
not make us close our eyes to the justice of their intellectual insurrec 
tion Their criticism in its broad results is found as true in the 

nineteenth as in the eighteenth century." 


M. Pecaut then sketches briefly, but with the hand of one 
intimately acquainted with the various phases of social life 
in France, the actual condition of religion in the country. 

" The educated classes, when they do not follow the caprice of a 
fashion, generally belong only by name to the churches from which 
they have received baptism ; and from the upper ranks incredulity has 
descended, passing through the artisans of the towns even to the 
agricultural labourers, especially in the Departments of the North. 
Young men who receive a liberal education detach themselves soon 
from the creed of their mothers, simply in consequence of the discord 
between such creeds and the whole method of their studies. A small 
number among them, willing at any price to satisfy the imperative 
need of a religion, return in later life to the same faith, while others as 
they advance in years find themselves from a thousand causes the 
pressure of custom, the influence of women, the necessity of educating 
their children (for which they have no sufficient guidance or institutions 
in harmony with their secret principles) above all, the lack of definite 
ideas and principles to resist the incessant ecclesiastical action armed 
at all points for good and evil from all these causes together, we say, 
they find themselves all their lives long divided between an apparent 
adhesion to the Church and a concealed hostility thereto. Further, 
how many are there who in our time remain outside of all the sects 
because they can find no church ready to receive them, such as they 
really are, with their religious aspirations more or less ardent, but in 
any case -sincere, and with their intellectual uncertainty regarding all 
doctrines ! The greater number of these accustom themselves to live 
in a vague scepticism, or in a state of indifference regarding their 
highest interests, only falling into the forms of the dominant Church 
on occasions of family or state ceremonies. Others, again, and they 
are among the best, abstain on principle from participation in any 
religious association. They refuse to carry into it a mutilated con- 
. science ; but they would enter it to-morrow, if they might do so, 
with their heads raised and without denying their true position or 
subscribing to degrading conditions. . . . It is for these last that I 
write ; I who in many ways belong to the same class. I confess 
I cannot resign myself without pain to the condition of religious 
isolation in which we find ourselves." 

My space will not permit me to follow M. Pecaut at length 


through the deeply philosophic discussion which follows re 
garding the prospects of obtaining what we may call a 
new term of religious life for such men as he has described. 
Perhaps the spirit of the constructive part of his book cannot 
be better illustrated than in the passage (p. 211) where, after 
tracing how the elder Deism and all merely moral systems 
fail to attract or to retain the souls of men, he shows what 
he trusts will be the faith of the future and whence it will 
be derived. 

" This it is which has been wanting in the experiments of which we 
have spoken the gift of prayer the supremacy of the religious idea 
a deeper alliance between human nature and the drama of the moral 
life. And this it is which we demand of Christian tradition, not as an 
artificial loan which we should rejoice riot to owe to it, but as the most 
precious part of our patrimony which it transmits to us from God, 
having preserved it through the ages." , . . "What (he elsewhere says 1 ) 
is Christian Theism ? Is it a system of philosophy or theology ? No. 
Is it one particular tradition among all those which have ploughed 
their furrow in the history of Christianity 1 No. Is it a confused 
eclecticism, an incoherent assemblage of divers traditions 1 No. Is it 
then perhaps a simple critical residuum, obtained by means of elimin 
ation ? Not so. What is it then ? It is the Christian spirit itself, the 
spirit of the Church, the spirit of Jesus, which by its own proper 
virtue and by the experience of ages has disengaged itself of the 
mythological elements, the errors, and perishable forms with which 
the disciples, and in some respects even the Master himself, had 
clothed it." 

And this religion, this Christian Theism, he believes will 
eventually prevail. 2 

" Traditional Protestantism and Catholicism, the refuges of so many 
pious souls, the provisional shelter of so many uncertain ones, cannot 
satisfy us ; for their dogmatic tradition and the principle of super 
natural authority contradict alike the testimony of history and the 
religious needs of the human soul, once it has attained self-guidance. 
But I see no reason to doubt that man being essentially religious, a 

1 Chapter i. 2 Introduction, page xii. 


religious society is a natural fact, no less inevitable than civil society ; 
and if this be so, it must be open to us to found it on the basis of ideas 
which our reason recognizes as true." 

M. Pecaut s volume, of which I have now given so brief 
a sketch, has a peculiar interest, as affording to the English 
reader both a view of the actual state of religion in France 
and an insight into the aims of its most spiritual reformers. 
Much that he says, however, is quite equally apposite to 
the condition of things in our own country ; and to us, no 
less than to him, the questions are paramount : As the old 
creeds are losing their hold, which are the creeds acquiring 
strength? Is it any one of the existing churches which 
bears in its bosom the precious seed hereafter to make the 
harvests of the world ? Or is it the yet scarcely sown 
" Christian Theism " of such men as Felix Pecaut which is 
to give to us all the bread of life ? Or, yet again, shall every 
form, alike of Christianity and of Theism, dwindle away 
and disappear, even as Comte foretells, and some vague 
" Religion of Humanity " like his, some yet more material 
belief in a Fluid or mere recognition of a Protean Force, 
henceforward fill up in human existence that stupendous 
vacuum to be left by the disappearance of God ? 

It has been frequently remarked that each of our present 
churches seems to have its raison d etre, not so much in a 
claim to intrinsic and eternal truth or the possession of 
any complete and consistent scheme of theology, but in its 
extrinsic and temporary antagonism to some other church. 
Admitting this to be true, we are driven to conclude that 
none of these churches can be the prototype of the Church 
of the Future. A sect which exists mainly as a protest 
against another sect can have nothing to support it when 
the antagonism dies with its object. Protestant and Catholic, 
Churchman and Dissenter, High Churchman and Evangelical, 
Calvinist and Unitarian, can hardly live the one without the 


other, more than so many Hegelian contraries. At best, 
like the old orders of soldier-monks, when the Crusades are 
over, if they be not extinguished, like the Templars, they 
must change their character, like the Knights of St. John. 
A man beginning to study theology ab initio, without know 
ledge of any of the present churches which crowd the arena 
of Christendom, would hardly, we conceive, deduce from 
either the Bible or the Book of Nature the doctrines of any 
one of them. And, sooner or later, according to the im 
mutable principles of things, as one after another of these 
little systems "have their day and cease to be," its anta 
gonist sect or Protestantism must cease also, and only such 
a creed survive as a spiritual worshipper might arrive at in 
a world empty of sects. This last only can be an immortal 
church ; this only can be the type of religion which will 
perpetuate itself in perennial vigour. The rest are but a 
crop of annuals doomed ere long to die ; nay, rather fungi 
growing each on its decaying stem, and destined, with it, at 
last to perish. 

But to enable ourselves to discover the creed which has 
its right of existence not in such mere antagonism to error, 
but in the possession of positive truth, it is needful that 
we ascend into a region of speculation very far above the 
debates of sects and jostlings of religious parties. We need 
to explore the secrets of human nature itself, and deduce 
from the ever-repeated characteristics of past generations 
the facts of our common wants and ineradicable propensi 
ties. We require to learn which are the things whose hold 
on our hearts no time can loosen while those hearts remain 
what they are ; and which again are those whose tenure may 
be as transitory as the beliefs and dreams of infancy. Above 
all, we need to assure ourselves whether Religion be indeed 
an integral part of human nature, even as the love of kin 
dred, of justice, of truth, of beauty, are parts thereof; or if 


it be, on the contrary, an accident of the world s youth ; 
a mist of the morning, dissipating even now in the glare 
of the noontide sun. The analogies of the past, the 
testimony of science respecting the existing religious senti 
ments of all the races of men upon earth, the deepest 
consciousness of our individual souls what evidence do 
they bring to aid us to decide this question ? Let us face 
the matter resolutely. 

"Will the time ever arrive when the historian will write 
words like these : 

" In these remote ages, namely, from unrecorded antiquity till the 
third millennium after Christ, there existed among all nations of whom 
we possess any records an extraordinary affection, or sentiment, called 
RELIGION. They experienced this singular feeling very variously, and 
applied it sometimes to one supposed invisible Being, sometimes to 
many ; but they generally agreed in displaying a mixture of fear, 
reverence, allegiance and love to some unseen Master or Protector 
whom they held to be present at all times and cognizant of their 
invocations and thanksgivings, and who was also understood to be 
the supreme Guardian of morality. This ; Religious Sentiment, as 
they called it, caused men to establish the largest institutions and 
spiritual corporations, called churches and priesthoods, and to build 
the greatest edifices in a profusion which amazes the archaeologist, who 
discovers their foundations, we had almost said, over every mile of 
the habitable globe, edifices whose sole purpose was the imaginary 
service of an imaginary Being. More remarkable than all other facts, 
however, connected with this long-passed-away Religion, is the un 
questionable one that it raised those who experienced it strongly to 
heights of self-devotion, ascending even to positive, painful martyrdoms 
most difficult for us to picture under the present sounder views of 
social duty. The books also which have descended to us from those 
ages, filled as they are with idle fables, appear to reveal an intensity of 
aspiration after goodness, and traces of laborious striving after inward 
holiness and perfection, which, while we can only ascribe them to this 
delusive idea of an invisible Spectator of the secrets of the heart, we 
are forced to regard with somewhat of admiration as well as astonish 



It is certain that either the time will come when some 
such words as these will be used, or else that Religion will 
never die out of humanity. If Grerman Materialists and 
French Positivists be right, then that time, however remote, 
is surely approaching. Let us not deceive ourselves. The 
substitutes which the best of them, such as Comte, offer us 
as Religion, is not what toe call Religion at all, nor therefore 
by the laws of language properly to be called by the name. 
It is a mere verbal trick, a shuffle of words, to call it " Reli 
gion," to worship, not (as all the religions of the past have 
done) an Invisible Person, but instead thereof the Abstrac 
tion of our Race, or a Visible Woman conventionally elevated 
to the representation of such an Abstraction of Humanity. 
It is another thing, whether it be a better or a worse ; and he 
who speaks of the religious sentiment being thus given the 
change by the intellect as to the object of its emotions, talks 
as idly as he who should say that filial, parental, conjugal and 
fraternal love could be counterchanged at our option. When 
Comte talks of the world passing through the consecutive 
stages of Fetichism, Polytheism, Monotheism and Positivism, 
he deceives himself and us. He speaks like one who should 
describe the progress of an individual from Infant to Boy, 
and from Boy to Man, and should add as the next stage, 
" and then he became a Woman." Polytheism was indeed a 
stage developed out of Fetichism, and Monotheism a stage 
out of Polytheism. But Positivism is no stage beyond 
Monotheism, for it is not on the same road at all. Instead 
of a development, it is a solution of continuity ; instead of 
a growth, it is the stroke of the axe at the very root of the 
tree. What can be more monstrous than to call it the 
development of belief in God, to arrive at belief in no Grod ? 
If Comte were right, it would prove that among all the 
feelings and affections of our humanity, the religious senti 
ment alone, since the world began, has been false, diseased, 



distorted and misapplied. While every other feeling cor 
responded to some reality, the parental, the filial, the con 
jugal, the patriotic, each to their true and proper objects, 
this alone, the highest of all, has from first to last been 
thrown away on an imaginary entity ; this alone, the source 
of holiest joy, truth, and virtue, has been a delusion and a lie. 
Perhaps it is a true thought which books like those of M. 
Pecaut bring before us. In the long pilgrimage of our race 
we have reached a point where the way to the Celestial City 
is no longer clear, and where no Angel or Interpreter stands 
by to direct us. To the right lies the old road which our 
fathers trod, and where we yet can recognize their venerable 
footsteps. But that path is a quicksand now, hardly able to 
bear the weight of a traveller who would plant his feet 
firmly as he goes. To the left there is another path, but it 
turns visibly before our eyes away from that City of God 
which has been hitherto our goal, and passes down fathom 
less abysses of lonely darkness where our hearts quail to 
follow. Straight before us lies a field hardly tracked as yet 
by the few pilgrim feet which have passed over it, a vast 
field full of flowers and open to the sun. May the " King 
of that Country " guide us, so that walking thereon we may 
find a new and straighter road to the Celestial City on high 
beyond the dark Eiver ; and to the " Beulah land" of peace 
ful faith here upon earth ! 



AN alarming rumour has recently gone forth that in the 
new Revision of the Bible the Lord s Prayer will be altered, 
and instead of praying to be delivered from "evil" we shall 
be called on to pray to be delivered from the "Evil One," 
i.e., the Devil. It would be hard to say whether such an 
emendation of the text would be more startling or painful. 
One thing there has been hitherto left about which Christians 
of every church were agreed ; and wherein even men who 
could follow no other Christian formula were wont to join. 
And now that blessed note of harmony in a jarring world 
threatens to become a discord too ! The prayer, merely to 
pronounce whose exordium was an act of faith, hope, and 
charity together, is doomed to become a test of orthodoxy, 
a subject of debate in each congregation and household. 
Assuredly thousands amongst us who have prayed all their 
lives to be "delivered from evil" will deem it nothing short 
of a blasphemy to pray to be delivered from a personal 
"ghostly enemy" in whose existence they have not the 
smallest belief. 

1 Histoire du Diable. Ses Origines, sa Grandeur, et so, Decadence. Par Albert 
Reville. Strasburg and Paris, 1870. An excellent translation of this little 
book, very handsomely got up, and adorned Avith portraits of the Egyptian and 
Assyrian Devils, has just been published. 12mo. pp. 72. London: Williams 
and Norgate. 1871. The present Essay was originally written as now printed, 
but was curtailed in the first publication by the exigencies of space in the 
Fortnightly Review, and for other reasons. 


The mere suggestion of such an unfortunate result of criti 
cism in the case of the Paternoster must, I presume, call forth 
some debate on the half-obsolete "doctrine of devils," and 
may ver} r probably afford some startling revelations as to the 
extent to which the belief in it now prevails in the minds of 
Englishmen. In the present paper I propose to make some 
inquiry into the subject ; and to follow the brilliant pages of 
M. Reville in an important branch of the subject, namely, 
the question, How Christendom came b} r its Devil ? The 
lower races of mankind, as Sir John Lubbock tells us {Origin 
of Civilization, p. 254), believe in no Satan, for the obvious 
reason that their gods themselves have no moral character, 
and where morality is wholly disconnected from 1 religion, 
a tempter can have no part to play. It is only in the higher 
forms of human thought that we come to the idea of a devil ; 
and singular paradox ! it is in the religion of Europe that 
the hideous chimera has risen to its full height of mon 
strosity. The How and the Why of such an abnormal 
growth, and the story of its decline and decay, seem every 
way worthy of attention. 

The Report of the Committee of the House of Commons for 
inquiring into the Adulteration of Food and Drink must have 
suggested to many readers the remark : What a wonderful 
amount of abominable stuff is the human machine capable of 
absorbing without being altogether clogged and brought to a 
standstill ! But it is by no means only the food of the body 
which, it appears, may be thus adulterated with at least par 
tial impunity. Mental food seemingly quite as well qualified 
to poison the intellect, paralyze the will, and stop the action 
of the heart, is yet every day gulped down by multitudes 
in the sight of all men ; and when we look that they should 
show signs of its morbific action, lo ! we find them going 
cheerfully about their business as if they had supped full, 
not of horrors, but of good bread and cheese. If we could 


have set ourselves, for example, to create a conception which 
ought (so to speak) to disagree with the human mind, we 
should unhesitatingly say that such a notion would be the 
existence of a great Bad God ; a being of absolute malignity 
who ceaselessly employs his stupendous supernatural powers, 
by inward suggestion and outward temptation, in luring each 
of us to his subterranean dungeon, where he will preside 
over our combustion for infinite ages. Certainly such a 
notion is far from being nourishing, refreshing, or, as we 
should have supposed, in any way wholesome or digestible. 
Yet, marvellous to relate ! this oil- of- vitriol kind of thing 
slips down the throats of tens of thousands of honest Britons 
at least once every week, and they go home afterwards from 
church and eat their luncheons with admirable appetite, and 
never, by word or deed, betray that they have drained a 
cup to which that of Hecate \vas a mild tisane. Sweet and 
gentle elderly ladies, 

whose eyes 
Grow tender over drowning flies, 

and who refuse to believe any harm of the worst scapegrace 
among their nephews, allow this particular horror to enter 
their minds unchallenged, and even seem to turn it over 
under the tongue as if it were a bon-bon, and inquire, plain 
tively, in the same breath, Does their visitor believe in the 
eternity of future punishment and will he not take another 
lump of sugar in his tea ? Between these good folk and 
their neighbours who refuse to believe in the horrid dogma 
there is hardly a pin to choose so far as cheerfulness goes, 
or general easiness of demeanour. One believes he walks 
on a thin crust of lava over a bottomless crater, and the 
other thinks he treads on rock ; but there is no perceptible 
difference in the way they put their feet to the ground. 
One loses his son and believes he may possibly be in Hell ; 
the other loses his daughter and is sure she is gone to a 


better world. But the tears of the two fathers are much 
alike ; the grief of the first is not more inconsolable than 
that of the second. Truly the paradox would be inexplicable 
were it quite clear that those who so to speak bite freely 
at unhealthy ideas, actually masticate them and assimilate 
them with their mental constitutions. The fact seems rather 
to be that both clergy and laity are apt to take a great 
many more such things into their mouths than ever go any 
farther. Some divines and parents, indeed, obviously are 
possessed of a natural pouch, similar to that of the pelican, 
wherein they lodge an astonishing quantity of undigested 
notions, and whence they distribute them liberally to the 
young without any necessity for swallowing them on their 
own account. 

With respect to the particular dogma of the existence of 
a Devil, the attitude of the Christian world at this moment 
is not a little singular. The idea is ostensibly accepted by 
the whole mass of members of all the great churches, Greek, 
Roman, and Protestant, national and dissenting. Only by 
the small sects of Universaiists and Unitarians, and for a 
few years back has it been officially repudiated. Not one 
clergyman in a thousand hints at a doubt of Satan s per 
sonality, while many insist upon it with as much urgency 
as if (as Mr. Maurice suggests) the great message of the 
Gospel had been, "The Kingdom of Hell is at hand." Nine- 
tenths of the educated men and women in England have 
duly learned in childhood to "renounce the Devil," as if 
on the assumption (authorized, indeed, by the formularies of 
the Church) that we were born his subjects or children. 
In a word, Christendom at large professedly believes in 
Satan with as much formality and emphasis as it believes, 
let us say, in the Third Person of the Trinity. 

On the other hand, and as an off-set to this official recog 
nition of the Devil, we have to place his actual status in 


the minds of men of the present generation ; and it appears 
that if we have in our creed a Devil de jure, we are far from 
having one de facto. Theological legitimists, like the old 
Jacobites, still continue on stated occasions to express their 
conviction of the rights of the potentate "over the water" 
or over another element. But practically, and for all the 
purposes of common every-day life, they live peaceably under 
quite another dynasty. Nothing is more notorious than that 
of the once compact bundle of doctrines which Wycliffe and 
Luther began to untie, and which each sect and individual 
has been knotting up into little select fasces ever since, the 
rotten stick, labelled " The Devil," is the one which the 
fewest persons retain now-a-days in their private collections. 
At all events, it is always the first thing to drop out when 
the band of orthodoxy grows a little loose. Great thinkers 
and small thinkers agree here, if nowhere else. Profane 
folk laugh whenever the Devil is mentioned, as if there were 
a hidden joke in the very word ; and pious people smile 
when the parson alludes to him, and say, like La Mothe le 
Yayer, "Mon ami, j ai tant de religion que je ne suis point 
de ta religion." 

Of those who remain, and who think that they believe in 
such a being, M. Albert Reville, in the paper before us, says, 
very aptly, that " if they only knew how people acted who 
really believed in a Devil," their delusion would quickly be 
dispelled. They would then perceive that their conventional 
adhesion to the dogma. is an extremely different thing from 
the awful soul-prostrating faith in it, such as their fathers 
entertained two or three centuries ago. 

It can hardly be doubted that it would be a benefit to the 
world if this outworn doctrine were confessedly abandoned. 
Such decaying exuvice of faith, still clinging about us, are 
unhealthful and embarrassing things at the best. The 
proverbial " wisdom of the serpent " is displayed by rubbing 


off its old skin at the proper time, and allowing the new one, 
however tender, to shine unincumbered ; and not by " stop 
ping its ears to the voice of the charmer/ as the Fathers 
ingeniously explained that difficult feat, by jamming one ear 
against a stone, and cramming their tails into the other. 

In matters however remotely connected with religion, the 
principle that "lies should be served on one plate and truth 
on another" is pre-eminently valuable. It would be hard to 
say how much of the worst form of scepticism of our day is 
due to nothing else than the pertinacity wherewith the clergy 
insist on always embarking in one boat to sink or swim to 
gether the things of deepest import and simplest evidence, with 
the things of pettiest consequence and most uncertain proof. 
At best much inconvenience always comes from maintaining 
a public creed which is not conterminous with the private 
creed of its professed adherents ; leaving Faith like a Roman 
noble shivering in one wing of his palace, while vast suites of 
halls and chambers, once filled w r ith life and animation, are 
now silent and dark. Perhaps it may seem vain to hope 
that persons who, in our day, still linger in the old world 
of thought sufficiently fondly even to suppose that they 
believe in 

" The Chief of many throned Powers, 
"Who lead the embattled Seraphim to war," 

will be in any way affected in their opinions by a mere 
historical study of the great myth, or of the Rise and 
Progress, Decline and Fall, of this singular Eidolon of Jewish 
and Christian imagination. Nevertheless, as Isaiah thought 
he did something to expose the folly of contemporary 
paganism when he described how the image to be worshipped 
was cut out of the trunk of a tree, one part of which was 
applied to roasting meat and warming mankind, while the 
other part was fashioned into a god ; so M. Reville may hope 
to achieve a little in the way of discountenancing devil- 


belief by showing how the ugly idea was manufactured out 
of notions half of which at least we have long ago consigned 
to contempt and oblivion. 

Are Satan and Ahrimanes merely the Jewish and Persian 
forms of the same myth ? It would seem that they are of 
wholly different origin, and that the " root-idea " of each 
is entirely distinct ; or, that if they sprang from the same 
source, it was at the immeasurably remote epoch before the 
Aryan and Semitic branches of the human family were 
separated, and when the myth itself had scarcely begun to 
be developed. The two separately evolved ideas were indeed 
brought into juxtaposition at the time of the Jewish Cap 
tivity, and a singular exchange of costume took place between 
them, causing the similarity of character thenceforth to appear 
greater than it actually is. Satan, on his side, assumed a 
grandeur almost bringing him up to the level of Ahrimanes ; 
and the latter in the more modern portion of the Zend 
Avesta (the Boundeheseh) is made to leap to earth in the 
shape of an adder, and to tempt Meschia and Meschiane, 
the parents of mankind, apparently in imitation of the story 
of Genesis, wherein an actual serpent (not yet identified 
with any spiritual power) effects the same mischief. But 
the earlier idea of Ahrimanes differs altogether from the 
first idea of Satan. The story of the former is briefly this. 
In the most ancient parts of the Zend Avesta, Evil is not 
personified at all : it is spoken of as drucks, " destruction/ 
" falsehood," against which Ormuzd and good men contend. 
Goodness is understood as a positive thing, and evil as its 
negation. In each rational being there is said to exist 
a good, holy will; and also its shadow or negative. The 
famous passage supposed to be the inaugural address of 
Zoroaster himself, at the beginning of his prophetic mission 
(Gatha Ahunavaiti, Yasna 30), shows where the doctrine 
had then advanced. "In the beginning there were twins, 


the Good and the Base in thought, word, and deed. Choose 
one of those two spirits. Be good, not base. Ye cannot 
belong to both of them. Ye must choose one, either the 
originator of the worst actions, or the true Holy Spirit. 
Some may choose the hardest lot. Others adore Ahura 
Mazda (Ormuzd) by means of faithful actions." In 
later ages Angro Mainyus (Ahrimanes) became a posi 
tively Evil Being of almost equal power with Ahura Mazda. 
To him is attributed the creation of all noxious beasts and 
insects, the addition of smoke to fire, of thorns to roses, and 
generally of all evil, falsehood, and pain to the world. He 
is the chief of the seven arch-demons, just as Ahura 
Mazda is the chief of the seven Amschaspands or arch 
angels; and is lord also of an infinite train of devas, or fiends, 
beings whom the Yasna says are "nourished by evil-doers," 
and into whom evil-doers themselves are transformed after 
death. But, great as Ahrimanes became in the developed 
Zoroastrian belief, the blessed faith that "somehow, good 
shall be the final goal of ill," never seems to have deserted 
the worshippers of Ormuzd. They held that at the end 
of all things, after the final resurrection, and the three days 
penance by the wicked in the rivers of molten metal, Ahri 
manes himself, with all his train of demons, would repent 
and adore Ahura Mazda, and be received into Gorotrnan 
(paradise). Nay, so important was felt to be this doctrine 
of the final Restoration of all spirits, that the assertion of 
it forms a part of the morning prayer which every Parsee 
is bound to use. The charitable hope which Burns was 
thought to commit a sort of blasphemy in breathing in 
Christian Scotland, a few years ago, that the arch-enemy 

Tak a thought and men , 

has thus, it seems, been a part of the religious duty of 
"heathens " to entertain for about three thousand years. To 


the pious Parsee the conception of the final perdition of a 
single spirit, not the restoration of the worst of them, was 
the blasphemous idea. He would have said, that it implied 
the final defeat of the "Great Wise God"; and perhaps would 
not have greatly erred in that conclusion. 

But when the notion of the personality of Ahrimanes had 
become complete, and his power had been extended to the 
whole measure of physical and moral evil in the world, it 
began to be felt by the ancient Zoroastrians that their fun 
damental dogma of the Unity of God, and his supremacy 
over all beings, was endangered. To correct this error, at 
the time of the revival of the faith under the Sassanian 
kings, there began to be heard of a Zeruane Akerene (Time 
without Bounds), the First Cause of both Ormuzd and Ahri 
manes. But this conception (though still held by a few 
Parsee teachers) has been shown by recent European students 
of Zend MSS. to be wholly unsupported by the older sacred 
writings, which only describe Ormuzd as existing in " Bound 
less Time/ by no means as derived from it. 

In nearly all respects it will be seen presently that the 
biography of the Jewish Satan contrasts strangely with that 
of the Persian Ahrimanes as above described. When the 
former first makes his appearance on the stage of Hebrew 
thought, it is under the aspect of a talking reptile ; or 
rather the reptile first appears as a bond fide speaking animal, 
such as those of which the folk-lore of all nations is full; 
and not till long ages afterwards was this Serpent of Eden 
identified with a supposed angel, having an office somewhat 
analogous to that performed by the malicious snake. There 
is no trace of a belief in Satan in the patriarchal ages, nor 
during the period immediately succeeding the Exodus and 
the conquest of Canaan. Had the compilers of the Penta 
teuch and of the Books of Joshua and Judges known of the 
existence of such a being, it is inexplicable why they should 


have not alluded to him as often as do the Evangelists. 
"Gods of the nations," evil and " lying spirits" they speak 
of, and of those who consult them ; but of the Arch-Fiend 
they seem not to have heard a rumour. On the contrary, 
when we first come on definite traces of Satan in Scripture, 
he has not yet assumed such a position at all. His "fall 
like lightning from heaven" no prophet s reverted eye had 
yet beheld. The great poet of the Book of Job saw Satan, 
in his sublime vision, not as a rebel and outcast of paradise, 
but as going in and out of the court of Jehovah with others 
of the sons of God, coming thither to do homage. Nay, 
he imagines him to hold there a certain office as Public 
Prosecutor ; and that he is permitted to descend to earth 
(if we may so speak without irreverence for that glorious 
book) in the character of an " agent provocatif." How 
much of this conception, and of all the myths which have 
been built on it ever since, we owe to the genius of 
the poet himself perhaps almost wholly creating the 
character for his artistic purposes, or else defining and 
immortalizing a vague and temporary phase of Eastern 
thought can never be known. Long after the days of 
Job, and when the Jews (as Maimonides confesses) had 
acquired their knowledge of the angels from the Persians 
in Babylon, Satan became a " Prince of the Powers of the 
Air," with his train of subordinate archdemons ; and the 
story of his rebellion and fall gradually took shape. 

When the first Hebrew conception of the Elohim had 
settled into the strict monotheism wherein Jehovah alone 
was adored as the sole God of Israel, the theology of the 
age attributed to Him the doing of every act and inspiring 
every thought, both good and bad. Under this theocratic 
pragmatism, as the Germans call it, the Lord " hardens the 
heart of Pharaoh;" and his "Spirit" comes on Samson, 
and makes him rise and slay forty men, to pay a wager with 


their spoil. There is obviously, as yet, no question in the 
Hebrew mind whether the act so inspired be right or wrong, 
worthy or unworthy of Divine guidance. Some of the pur 
poses of Jehovah are carried out by angels, obedient, spiritual 
messengers, who fly about and visit the patriarchs in visible 
shapes, and drive Saul melancholy mad, and startle the ass 
of Balaam. One of these fulfils the office of Accuser- General 
or "adversary" (Satan}. In the performance of his in 
vidious, but as yet apparently loyal and legitimate service, 
this angel grows suspicious and malicious ; and we can 
trace, as to him are attributed, a series of acts of enmity 
to the human race in general, and to the house of Israel 
in particular (Zechariah iii. 1), the dislike of the Jews to 
him gradually rising, till he is at last made responsible 
for all evil under the sun. The turning-point of the 
national creed in this matter is most acutely fixed by M. 
Reville between the dates of the Second Book of Samuel 
and of the First Book of Chronicles. In the former (xxiv. 1) 
the ill-omened census of David is attributed, according 
to the old theory, to the inspiration of Jehovah. "The 
anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved 
David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah;" 
after which He punishes the people by a pestilence for 
David s action. But in the latter book (1 Chronicles 
xxi. 1), recording the same story, the evil inspiration is 
laid at the door of the Devil, and we are told " Satan stood 
up against Israel and provoked David to number the 
people ; " after which (verse 7) the sequel, " God was dis 
pleased with this thing," follows much more easily. 

From the critical moment in which this strange exchange 
of functions took place between Jehovah and Satan, we can 
easily understand how the consciences of the pious Jews 
of the great prophetic age constantly sought refuge from 
the dread mysteries of the order of Providence, by laying 


more and more the blame of evil on Satan, and thereby 
relieving their faith in the goodness of Jehovah from too 
severe a strain. Just as, in a previous still less reflective 
epoch, their fathers had not been disturbed by the attri 
bution of evil inspirations to the holy Jehovah, so they, 
only a little more advanced, were content (as are millions 
to this hour in Christendom) to attribute such evil to God s 
creature, Satan, without asking whence this incarnate Evil 
derived his nature, or obtained his power of access to the 

The age of the Apocrypha, with its intermixture of Persian 
and Alexandrian ideas, saw Satan, or, a.s the Septuagint call 
him, DIABOLOS, the Slanderer, already robed in some of 
the borrowed glory of Ahrimanes, and no longer a servant 
of Jehovah, but a rebel banished from those courts of heaven 
wherein the poet of Job beheld him freely entering. He 
now hates God, and labours to injure man, from rebellious 
spite to the Creator. He is at the head of a grand hier 
archy of evil powers ; the Asmodeus of the Book of Tobit, 
the demon of lust (identified by M. Breal with a similar 
Persian fiend), being one of the chief. Death itself is dis 
covered to be Satan s work ; and every inexplicable disease 
blindness, dumbness, madness, epilepsy, and St. Vitus s 
dance is traced directly to his malignity. Sometimes one 
of his minions, sometimes a legion of them, takes possession 
of a man altogether, and makes him a " demoniac," whose 
deplorable state only the exorcism of a divinely commissioned 
apostle, or of Messiah himself, can relieve. At the name 
of Jehovah, indeed, the devils tremble and retreat, never 
presuming, like Ahrimanes, to contend face to face with 
the Power of Good; and their circle of action is always 
strictly limited by the Divine Will. But the malignity of 
the Jewish evil spirits is sharpened by despair, for they 
know that for them await only the eternal fires. 


Such was pretty nearly the state of the Hebrew belief 
regarding devils at the time when Christ was born in 
Palestine. To his followers, who were anxious to identify 
him. with the Messiah, his relations with persons supposed to 
bear in their diseased bodies or minds the special mark of 
Satanic possession, was a matter of paramount importance. 
The Messiah could in no way, as they imagined, prove his 
mission so effectually as by constraining the devils to ac 
knowledge his superior power. Incidents which apparently 
corroborated this supremacy became of more interest 
as " evidences " than all the divine precepts and affecting 
parables to which in our day Christians turn to justify their 
faith ; and the road to orthodox belief was diligently paved 
with histories which have long since become stumbling-blocks 
in the way. Modern liberal Christians have exhausted 
themselves in efforts to determine whether Christ did or did 
not share the common belief of his countrymen in Satanic 
agency ; the conclusion that he did so being only less painful 
than the opposite horn of the dilemma, that he knowingly sanc 
tioned a superstition which he did not share. The reader who 
desires to see the subject candidly discussed will do well to 
consult the pages of M. Eeville. In concluding his remarks 
he urgently reminds us, that if Christ did believe in the 
Devil, he never insists on the doctrine ; that he tells us that 
our evil thoughts " proceed" out of our own hearts, and not 
(as a Rabbin would have taught) from the suggestion of 
Satan ; and that he even calls one of his disciples " Satan " 
when he makes an immoral suggestion ; thus using the term in 
a merely metaphorical sense as any disbeliever in the doctrine 
might do now. The same observations apply to St. Paul, 
who avowedly believes in Satan, but who, in his delineation 
of the great struggles of the soul, always makes the Flesh, 
not the Devil, the opponent of the spirit of righteousness. 
During the whole New Testament period, though the devils 


occupy quadruple the space they did in the older canon, they 
are still lingering in the human mind in a half-shadowy 
condition. They are neither visible nor palpable ; and the 
more grotesque mediaeval ideas concerning them, were yet 
unimagined. It needed another atmosphere to develope such 
monstrous growths out of the spawn as yet hidden. 

The primitive Christians used Satan, chiefly it would seem, 
as a ready-made and easy explanation of everything which 
thwarted their progress or aided their enemies. The Roman 
Empire itself was shrewdly suspected of being the kingdom 
of the Devil. All the oracles and miracles of the heathen 
gods were believed to be accomplished directly by the help 
of the evil spirits. In illustration of all this M. Eeville 
might have quoted a passage in Tertullian s " Apology," 
which, long as it is, I am tempted to introduce, as affording 
a general view of the part allotted to the devils in that same 
patristic teaching to which some of our living divines revert 
as the "pure milk of the Word," which we in our day have 
only to imbibe and be blessed : 

" But how from certain angels, corrupted of their own will, a more 
corrupt race of demons proceeded is made known in the Holy Scrip 
tures. Their work is the overthrow of man. Wherefore they inflict 
upon the body both sickness and many severe accidents, and on the 
soul perforce sudden strange extravagances. Their own subtle and 
slight nature furnisheth to them means of approaching either part of 
man. Much is permitted to the power of spirits, as when some 
working evil in the air blighteth the fruit or grain, and when the 
atmosphere, tainted in some secret way, poureth over the earth its 
pestilential vapours. They commend the gods to the captive under 
standings of men, that they may procure for themselves the food of 
sweet savour arid of blood offered to images. [This idea, that the 
devils fed on the idol sacrifices, is upheld by Athenagoras, Justin 
Martyr, Chrysostom, Gregory Nazianzen, and many others of the 
Fathers.] Every spirit is winged. Whatever is done anywhere they 
know. The councils of God they both snatched at in the times when 
the prophets were proclaiming them, and now also cull in the readings 


which echo them. And so, taking the allotted courses of the future, 
they ape the power while they steal the oracles of God. But in the 
(heathen) oracles, with what cunning do they shape their double mean 
ings to events ; witness the Crcesi, witness the Pyrrhi ! It was in the 
manner of which I have before spoken that the Pythian god sent back 
the message that a tortoise was being stewed with the flesh of a sheep. 

They had been in a moment to Lydia By dwelling in the air 

and being near the stars, they are able to know the threatening of the 
skies. They are sorcerers also as regards the cure of sickness. They 
first inflict the disease, and then prescribe remedies." Tertullian, 
Apol i. 23. 

Such was the world to the primitive Christians ; a place 
in which devils exercised every imaginable spiritual and 
physical power, causing at once evil thoughts in the minds 
of men, diseases in their bodies, and blights on their fields ! 
Within and without, from the height of the stars to the 
depths of hell, the universe was full of these agents of malig 
nity and deception. Truly the days of the Roman Empire 
were bad enough, but this view of human existence in 
them surpasses, for horror, anything that history has told 
us. JSTor was it exclusively among the Christians that a 
belief in devils at that time prevailed. Polytheism itself, 
as it became a more moral creed, tended towards a dualism 
previously unknown, and the Magian religion, which found 
a welcome in Rome amid the general Maelstrom of faith, 
added, doubtless, its part to the popularity of the idea of 
evil spirits. Apollonius of Tyana was as much the enemy 
of demons as any Christian saint of them all; and lam- 
blichus, the lofty-minded pious Egyptian priest, raised 

Eros and Anteros at Gadara ; 

like a Catholic exorcist. That strange hybrid between 
the religions of Christ and Zoroaster, Manicheism, became, 
at a very early period, a faith numbering thousands of ad 
herents, and has left to this day its dregs in the sect of 
Yezidis in Persia, who offer distinct worship to Shaitan. 



Finally, the Talmud, compiled at this time, affords ample 
evidence that the Jewish mind received in full the fashion 
of the age. How much the ascetic practices, which 
now also came into vogue, and drove men by hundreds 
crazy with fasting and austerities, abetted the growth of a 
belief in tempting devils, Asmodeus, Belphegor, and Mam 
mon, inspirers of Lust, Grluttony, and Avarice, it is needless 
to point out. St. Anthony s experience was enough to have 
originated the nightmare of diabolic agency, had none such 
ever been heard of before. 

But the most important part played by Satan in the re 
ligion of the primitive Christians was unquestionably that 
which they assigned to him in the awful drama of the 
Atonement. The original conception of the nature of that 
event, as held by the saints and Fathers of the first cen 
turies, has been too much overlooked by those who in our 
day discuss its moral character. The "ransom of blood," 
understood commonly in modern times to have been paid 
on Calvary to the justice of God, was taken by the Fathers 
in quite a different sense, namely, as paid in discharge of 
the claims of the Devil. St. Irenseus distinctly taught that 
mankind since the Fall had become the property of Satan 
in the sense in which slaves belonged to their masters ; and 
that it would have been unjust for Grod to rob him of souls 
which belonged to him. Christ, as a perfect man, and 
therefore independent of the Devil s claims, had offered 
himself as a ransom for the rest of mankind ; and the Devil 
had accepted the bargain. By-and-by it was observed that 
in this negotiation Satan had made an egregious blunder; 
and Origen candidly admitted that he had been outwitted, 
and had been induced to accept the ransom of Christ s life, 
which the Redeemer had given knowing that he could not 
retain him in hell. This idea (to our minds so shocking), 
of the Devil being the deceived party and Christ the deceiver, 


was accepted almost universally throughout the Church till 
the scholastic theology discarded it in favour of the scheme, 
expounded in Anselm s " Cur Deus Homo," namely, that 
it was the Father s justice, and not the Devil s claims, which 
were satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ. 

But even while the Devil was supposed to have relin 
quished his infernal rights to human souls, in consideration 
of Christ s blood, he was paradoxically believed to be still 
tempting, and betraying thousands continually to his prisons 
below. The time and care of the saints were principally 
occupied in evading his toils ; and as to sinners, they were 
altogether his servants. The whole cultus of Christianity 
assumed a new aspect from this dread Shadow, always in 
the background. Baptism became primarily an exorcism. 
To become a Christian was to " renounce the Devil, his 
pomps, and his works." To be turned out of the Church 
was to be " delivered to Satan." 

Of course the Natural History of Devils occupied in 
telligent minds not a little during this first Reign of Terror. 
The mysterious allusion in Genesis to the " Sons of God" 
(the Beni Elohim), who " saw the daughters of men that 
they were fair," furnished sufficient data for an entire 
authoritative Demonogony, to which St. Augustine added 
the touch that at their fall the devils (whose bodies had been 
previously aerial) acquired gross animal forms, subject to all 
carnal passions. This point once established, there followed, 
in the simple order of development, the invention of Incubi 
and Succubi, or devils who haunted sleeping men and 
women ; with other fiends of ill design, like the one who 
seduced St. Yictor under the semblance of a young girl 
lost in a wood. Decrees of Councils from the fourth 
century onward begin to notice these perils, and advise 
bishops to look sharply after women who wander about 
at night along with heathen goddesses. The Sabbath of 


the Brocken was already brewing in the mind of terrified 

As soon as the devils were known to assume visible forms* 
it became naturally a matter of extreme curiosity to deter 
mine what was their proper shape and semblance. The 
Father of Lies, of course, was understood to practise various 
deceptions in this as in every other way ; and his audacity 
in the case of St. Martin went so far as to present himself 
disguised as Christ. But his ordinary working dress, if we 
may so describe it, was at that time merely a domino noir. 
He was the Angel of Darkness, and as a black figure was 
often seen to escape when heathen temples were overthrown 
and idols shattered. It was somewhat later in the course of 
his career ere he adopted the horns and hoofs of the god 
Pan ; and presented himself to Europe under the familiar 
guise wherewith he is identified in our imaginations, and 
wherein the characteristics of the harmless ruminant are 
so unscientifically combined with the propensities of the 
" Roaring Lion going about seeking whom he may 

The next step, taken in the sixth century, and made by 
St. Theophilus, was the notable discovery that compacts 
could be made with the Devil. Documents duly signed by 
the high contracting parties conveyed on one side the 
diabolic promise to give the man riches, power, revenge, or 
whatever else he desired ; and on the other the human 
engagement to submit to the demon s summons of the soul 
to the regions below at a stipulated period. The interest 
of the innumerable tales to which this brilliant idea 
gave birth centred on the acuteness of the man in cheating 
the Devil at the last moment by some flaw in the con 
tract, or by the interference, on behalf of the sinner, of 
some benevolent saint or of the Virgin descending to the 


Of course the man who, believing in a Power of Evil, 
voluntarily accepted such allegiance and bound himself to 
do his will for the sake of some coveted reward, was guilty 
of a moral offence tantamount (so far as his poor benighted 
mind could go) to absolute renunciation of all duty and 
religion. There was such a sin as Dernonolatry, although 
no demon existed to receive the worship. The enormous 
mischief of the popular delusion lay in the fact that it con 
stantly presented this capital offence of spiritual treason as 
a temptation to all men spurred by passion to seek any of 
the prizes supposed to be attainable by its means. Love, 
jealousy, hate, covetousness, ambition, were naturally ex 
cited to madness by the idea that their complete gratification 
was always possible ; and the wretched being who once 
imagined he had " sold his soul " of course from that hour 
became desperate and irreclaimable. 

In the Middle Ages we find the doctrine of devils as 
suming a shape altogether in accordance with the spirit of 
the time. Feudalism, with its accurately ranged orders, was 
matched by corresponding orders in the diabolic realm. Just 
as the barons and knights assembled round the king and 
swore fealty to him, so the sorcerers were believed to assem 
ble at their Sabbath on the Brocken and to swear allegiance 
to Satan. Even the favourite sport of the time had its 
parody in the nightly chase of the infernal Wild Huntsman. 
The ceremonies of the Church were travestied and the Pater 
Noster repeated backwards to worship the Devil. In a word, 
day and night did not rule the natural world more com 
pletely than the Church and the Devil filled between them 
the imagination of our fathers. From the thirteenth to the 
fifteenth century the superstition seems to have been at 
its height. Satan had reached the zenith of his grandeur. 
As a specimen of the way in which his doings occupied the 
minds of men, the reader should consult the Liber Revela- 


tiomtin de Insidiis et Versutiis Dcemonum ad versus Homines, 
by the Abbot Richalmus, who flourished in 1270. Every 
thing which happened of a disagreeable sort to this good 
man, from the distractions of his mind at Mass to the nausea 
he felt after eating unwholesome food, from the false notes of 
his choir to the coughing fits which interrupted his sermons, 
all was the work of a malicious fiend. " For example," says 
he, " when I sit down to read a pious book, the devils 
manage to make me immediately feel sleepy. "When I try to 
rouse myself by drawing my hands out of my sleeves they 
bite me like fleas, and so distract my attention." The busi 
ness of some devils, he observes, is solely to make men ugl} r , 
and he knows a case wherein a little devil- kin has been 
hanging on a holy man s under lip for twenty years to make 
it pendent in an unseemly manner. There are as many 
devils, he assures us, round each of us, as there are drops 
of water round a drowning man. "The uses of the sign of 
the cross and of salt are indeed considerable in repelling 
these enemies. When a devil has taken away a monk s 
appetite, it is surprising how eating a little salt with his 
meat will improve it again." Thus, for 130 chapters, con 
tinues this remarkable book of Revelations, whose popularity, 
like that of the Golden Legend of Voragine, on the same 
topic, proves sufficiently how far both works were in harmony 
with the feelings of their age. 

Now at last, then, the world was ripe for the terrible 
cruelties to which the belief in Satan led up, and which were 
its logical outcome. Angela de Labarete, a noble lady, was 
in 1275 burnt at Toulouse as a sorceress the first of the 
long array of victims to the same superstition, who (accord 
ing to Gibbon s calculation) exceeded in number in one 
country of Europe alone, and in a single century, all the 
martyrs of the ten Roman persecutions. The dreadful story 
of the witch trials needs not to be told again in these pages. 


For three centuries they went on, growing more frequent, 
and shifting their area from one part of Christendom to 
another, till at last every nation, Catholic and Protestant, 
had caught the hideous frenzy ; and, as we look back over 
the horrible scene, it would seem as if France, Spain, Italy, 
Germany, the Netherlands, England, and America were, like 
the " Black Country" at night, blazing everywhere with 
lurid fires, whose fuel was the living flesh of men and 
women and innocent children. 

It was when the witch persecutions had only just com 
menced in Southern France that Dante drew his portrait 
(dignified in comparison to the demonology of the age) of 
the great 

Imperator del doloroso regno ; 

and from his descriptions it is probable that the Devil of 
Orcagna and of the few other Italian painters who con 
descended to touch him, was derived. But it was when the 
witch mania was in its fury throughout Europe and America 
that England s great republican poet took on himself the 
astounding task of rehabilitating the celestial rebel. The 
grotesque fiend of the popular imagination, transformed 
into the magnificent Lucifer of Paradise Lost, was a stroke 
of poetic fancy which perhaps even Milton would scarcely 
have dared had not St. Avitus of Vienne preceded him on 
the same track. 1 Be this as it may, his success was equal 
to his boldness, and it may be fairly said that from his time 
we have had at least two Devils in English imagination. 

1 The resemblance between this Saint s old Latin poem, De Initio Mundi and the 
Paradise Lost of Milton, both as regards plot, characters, and even long parallel 
passages, has been recently brought to light by an American critic. Todd, in his 
Inquiry into the Origin of Paradise Lost, betrays that he had never read St. Avitus. 
He says, "Mr. Bowie, in his catalogue of poets who have treated Milton s subject, 
mentions Alcinus Avitus, Archbishop of Vienna (!), who wrote a poem in Latin 
hexameters, De Initio Mundi, but offers little else respecting it. Possibly some 
of the sentiments and expressions in this poem might arrest the attention of 
Milton." Todd s Milton, vol. i. p. 60. 


One is the semi- ridiculous Mediaeval Devil, the " Old Nick," 
or " Muckle-horned Clootie," with the aspect of Pan and 
a disposition which, although malicious and cunning, is yet 
easily liable to be cheated and outwitted by ordinary mortals. 
The other is the superb Miltonic Lucifer, whose blasted form 
of " archangel ruined " the pencil of Ary Schefter can 
scarcely render grand enough for our ideal ; and who, 
instead of contending with clowns in ignoble trial of wits, 
is the very incarnation of giant Pride, the mighty rebellious 
Will which prefers 

" Kather to reign in hell than serve in heaven ! " 

This latter and nobler Devil has indeed so impressed him 
self on the minds of all cultivated Englishmen that he is 
almost universally accepted by us as the true Biblical Satan ; 
and what we have learned from Milton is so jumbled with 
what we have learned from the Bible, that nine out of ten 
amongst us would probably, on sudden inquiry, unhesitat 
ingly answer that there exists Scriptural authority for a 
whole series of myths for which our English poet is alone 
responsible. As we have now seen, the Old Testament 
Satan really afforded only a hint of the Miltonic Lucifer ; 
while the ISTew Testament Beelzebub bore scarcely any 
resemblance to him whatever. 

Lastly, as the Devil took his place in the masterpieces 
of Hebrew, Italian, and English literature, so, in the begin 
ning of our own age, he re-appeared once more in the great 
poem of Germany. And what a true modern Devil is Mephis- 
topheles ! His creator foresaw that, at least for the current 
century, not Cruelty, not Malice, not Falsehood, not Pride, 
would be the great evil of the world, but the Incarnate 

When the flames of the witch persecutions at length died 
away (no longer ago than in 1781 in Spain, and in 1783 in 


Switzerland), and the world began to breathe again after 
its dream of terror and cruelty, it became evident that the 
Devil had lost much of his intimidating power, nationalism 
was advancing, not only in the realm of theology, but of 
medicine, physiology, and psychology. The wild and base 
less notions which did duty for science before the age of 
Bacon faded gradually away, and men began to see things 
in the light of common day, and not of a hundred will-o - 
the-wisps of unreclaimed fancy. The Reformation had 
laid the train of thought which is even now exploding, 
one after another, all the strongholds of superstition. The 
inkstand which Luther threw at the Devil at Wartburg 
proved to be a true prophetic symbol, for the black fluid 
has done more to extinguish the powers of darkness than all 
the holy water of the saints. Experience proves that as 
religion becomes more spiritual, in the true sense of the 
word, the belief in " spirits," good, bad, or indifferent, 
invariably evaporates. Such beings are the creations, not 
of Faith, not of reliance on the intuitions of conscience and 
the religious sentiment, but, on the contrary, of a carnal 
and materialistic mind, which seeks assurance of supernal 
things through the evidence of the bodily senses, and uses 
mechanical means for obtaining spiritual ends. In pro 
portion as the priesthood resigns its pretensions to work 
sacramental miracles, so far prayer and exhortation take 
the place of exorcisms and incantations. As the Divine 
Power becomes recognized in the ordinary course of 
nature, and is no longer sought exclusively in the realm 
of miracle and prodigy, so the whole world of spirit- 
marvels is pushed farther back out of the path of thought. 
Of course the Devil and his doings are the very first to 
undergo the influence of this silent rising of the intellectual 
tide. Even for those who still believe in his existence he 
has dwindled into an invisible and impalpable being, whose 


suggestions are made only in the heart, and not through 
external malific artifices ; and whose influence must be com 
bated, not by charms and exorcisms, but by moral efforts and 
prayers. In a word, the Devil is dying out. 

Does there remain no lesson to us from all this chain 
of error after error which for so many centuries has fet 
tered our race ? What has been the principle in human 
nature on which this belief has fastened, and by whose 
energy it must have been supported so long ? Is it the 
need laid on us to find some explanation of all the evil we 
behold within and around us in creation? M. Eeville thinks 
this cannot be so, because the myth of Satan offers no logical 
solution of the problem at all, but rather adds new difficulties 
thereto. But is he right in arguing that because the story 
of the Devil ought not to satisfy a troubled mind, it is 
therefore a fact that it has not satisfied thousands for twenty 
centuries ? It is a matter of hourly astonishment to any 
one who earnestly contemplates the religion of his fellows to 
observe how small a part logic plays in it, and how readily 
men are put off with answers to inquiries which are no 
answers at all. The "schemes of salvation," for example, 
which are commonly announced as vindications of the Divine 
justice, and are popularly accepted as such, what are they 
but vindications of their authors incapacity to understand 
the rudiments even of human equity ? It would seem 
nowise more improbable that our ancestors should have taken 
the myth of Satan as a satisfactory account of the origin 
of evil, than that millions in our day should take other 
parts of the same theology as affording satisfactory views 
of the goodness of God. 

We have seen in this sketch a gradual rising of the moral 
sense of mankind in reference to the source of evil. In the 
earliest stage of all, and long before Hebrew thought had 
reached the level whereon the Book of Genesis was written, 


there was no connexion between religion and morality ; for 
the gods of savages have no moral attributes, and are merely 
unseen Powers imbued with all the passions of the savage 
himself. By degrees, and as soon as the moral law begins 
to make itself felt in the yet half-brutal human soul, the idea 
that the higher powers approve such virtues as man yet 
perceives, and punish his crimes, dawns on the understand 
ing. When he has reached the development of a Greek of 
the days of Hesiod he has become well assured that 

" Jove s all-seeing and all-knowing eye 
Beholds at pleasure things that hidden lie, 
Pierces the walls which gird the city in, 
And, on the seat of judgment, blasts the sin." 

And this although, at the same moment, this justice- 
vindicating Zeus is believed to be himself capable of what 
at a further stage are recognized as atrocious crimes. At the 
far higher moral stand-point of the author of the Elohistic 
fragment of Genesis, the Elohim are recognized as holy ; but 
there is no sense yet, or even in the later writers of the 
Pentateuch, that God may not consistently tempt men to sin 
or " harden the hearts " of kings, and prompt all manner 
of injustice. As we have noticed above, this very imperfect 
conception changes between the dates of the Book of Samuel 
and of Chronicles. Evil inspirations could no longer be 
suffered to be attributed directly to Jehovah. His servant 
Satan must whisper them in the ear of David. Then, as 
the next step, the Satan who effects such mischief can be no 
longer recognized as the servant of God. He must be a 
rebel against Jehovah, and his evil work must be done, not 
by His behest, but in opposition to Him. At this point of 
advance, it would seem, the human mind stopped for about 
twenty-six centuries. It was trapped, in fact, in a sort of 
theologic cul de sac; for, as God was recognized as Creator 
of all things, He must needs, it was clear, have been Satan s 


Creator also. ~No further separation could be made on the 
Hebrew basis, between the powers of good and evil, than to 
allege that the latter, though made originally by God, had 
in remotest time rebelled against and opposed Him. The 
questions how and why an All- foreseeing Being created this 
foe to Himself and his creatures, and an Omnipotent One 
granted him the necessary powers for carrying on his rebel 
lion, were either never thought of, or they were soon laid 
aside as unanswerable. Evil existed, and the Devil caused 
it. That was all that was known on the subject. It was 
some satisfaction, at least, to be sure that the earth rested 
on an elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise, even 
though nobody could conjecture on what the tortoise might 

JSTow, in our day, we have come at last to be forced to 
look into this tremendous problem a little more deeply. 
"With the disappearance of the Devil, the plain and hideous 
fact of the existence of evil is left staring us in the face. 
God help us to make the next great step safely ! Is it too 
presumptuous to surmise that its direction will prove to be 
that of a retrocession from the arrogant dogmatism which 
has caused us, first, to give to the Divine Might the name 
of " Omnipotence/ 7 because, forsooth, we know nothing of 
its bounds or conditions ; and then, secondly, to argue back 
from that purely arbitrary metaphysical term, that He 
could do this or that, if it so pleased Him, since He is 
" Omnipotent " ? Who has given us to know that God is 
absolutely able to do everything ? The simple proposition 
(which it might seem the blindest could not have overlooked) 
that no conceivable power, of whatever magnitude, can pos 
sibly include contradictions, might have taught us more 
modesty than we have hitherto shown in scanning the order 
of providence. When we have thoroughly taken in the idea 
that God could not make twice two five, nor the three 


angles of a triangle more than two right angles ; then we 
may begin to ask ourselves, May not contradictions equally 
great, for all we can know, lie in the way of every removal 
of evil which we would fain demand at the hands of the 
Lord ? And may not the accomplishment of the highest 
of all possible good, the training to virtue of finite spirits, 
be as incompatible with a thornless and sinless world as 
would be the making of a circle and a triangle having the 
same mathematical properties ? 

Philosophically considered, the error on which the doc 
trine of the existence of a Devil is founded is precisely 
the same as that into which Aristotle fell when he treated 
Lightness and Coldness as positives, instead of merely as 
the negations of weight and heat. We are all prone to make 
the same mistake, even as regards our own natures, and to 
talk as if our lower, blind, and animal part were something 
more than that Negative mind (Akomano) which Zoroaster 
named it. To call our passions inspirations of devils, and 
treat our lower nature as the Devil s realm, and our delin 
quencies as cases of his victory and possession, is, of course, 
the next error, and the most natural one in the world ; just 
as it is natural to speak of cold "causing" water to freeze, 
and of night being the " dominion of Darkness." But as 
physical science repudiates the latter phrases, so must our 
theology henceforth renounce the former. And in the 
highest region of our conceptions the same principle must 
hold. We speak of God as a Person, because we are 
compelled to believe that, between the only alternatives 
conceivable to us personality and impersonality person 
ality is the highest, and, therefore, that God is personal. 
But for the very same reason that we attribute to Him 
positive and personal existence, we are bound to deny the 
same to His antithesis. Whatever other explanation may 
or may not be found for the existence of pain and sin, it 


is impossible that it can be other than impersonal and 
negative. The Black Sun imagined by the novelist, whose 
rays were streams of darkness and frost, was not a more 
unscientific conception than that of a mighty intelligent 
"Will, wholly evil, as God is wholly good. 1 

1 "While the present volume has been passing through the press, Lord Lyttelton 
has published the second series of his Ephemera, in which he does me the honour 
to devote an article to the refutation of the present Essay. Lord Lyttelton says 
that the reason why the theory I advocate (that of the non-existence of a Devil) 
ought to be resisted, is the general one that " forced and peculiar constructions 
of Scripture are inexpedient." In the same week the Duke of Somerset has 
published his essay on Christian Theology and Modern Scepticism, and therein 
describes the " first difficulty" in the way of accepting the authority of the Bible 
to be, the presence therein of the doctrine of devils and diabolic possession. 
"The educated Protestant," he observes, "no longer believes what the Evan 
gelists believed and affirmed" (p. 17). I can only reply to Lord Lyttelton s 
courteous criticism by observing that, in writing my Essay, I had much more in 
my thoughts such a view of the matter as that of the Duke of Somerset, than 
the remotest intention to introduce " a forced and peculiar construction of Scrip 
ture." I rejoice to find that even so decided an adversary as Lord Lyttelton 
will go with me so far as to treat the eternity of future punishment and the 
final restoration of the Devil as open questions ; while he appears to agree with 
Mr. Brookfield in denying the materiality, though not the personality, of the 
being in question. May I venture to remark that there are controversies in 
which, when our opponent is willing to go with us a mile, we may hope, ere 
long, to find him contented to go with us twain ? 



ANCIENT History, it has been well said, tends continually 
more to become the History, not of Facts, but of Opinions 
and Sentiments. What actually occurred at any given time 
and place, what deeds were done, what words were spoken, 
what were the characters of the actors of each scene, grows 
ever more doubtful as we are enabled to check one narrative 
by another ; or to apply to the antique chronicle the rules 
by which we determine the value of modern evidence. But 
on the other hand, the common Belief of contemporary and 
succeeding generations concerning those doubtful things said 
and done, and the feelings, whether of admiration or of 
contempt, wherewith they regarded the actors and speakers, 
are matters very plainly revealed to us, and afford to the 
student of human nature his best and safest materials. 

In proportion as such a view of the proper scope of 
ancient history becomes recognized, and books are written 
more carefully collating and delicately weighing the indices 
of opinion and feeling, and expending less time in disquisi 
tions over irrecoverable details of facts, it may be hoped 
that there will arise for us quite a new aspect of the old 
world. We shall live again not with the few who acted 
its great dramas of war and conquest, but with the many 

1 Tree and Serpent Worship. By James Fergusson, F.R.S. London: India 
Museum. 4to. pp. 217. 


who looked on at them at lesser or further distance, and 
felt their hearts beat, like our own, with triumph and regret, 
love and detestation. We shall learn, not what Theseus and 
Regulus did, but what were the types of character which 
the whole Greek and Roman nations set up as their ideals. 
We shall acquire a true knowledge, not of the History of 
the Six Days of Creation or of the Exodus, but of what the 
Hebrews in the time of their kings believed about the origin 
of the world and the early migrations of their race. We 
shall be able to satisfy ourselves, not of the incidents of 
that wondrous story over which Strauss and his critics may 
wrangle for ever, but of what the writer of each Gospel 
and each Epistle, the men of the apostolic age, and the men 
of the patristic ages, successively thought and felt about its 
great subject. 

To this newer form of historical research, the contributions 
which pour in on all sides, regarding the ancient creeds of 
the world, are especially valuable. Already the difference 
between our views and those which even well-informed and 
liberal men entertained twenty years ago, on the whole 
subject of comparative theology, is enormous ; and as the 
various pieces of the puzzle are put together, the place for 
each new acquisition appears easier to find, till by degrees 
the hope of a not wholly incomplete "Philosophy of All 
Religions" comes into view. Nor are those grander and 
more complete systems which may deserve properly to 
be classed as Religions alone useful for such a purpose. 
Between a great body, such as the Christian or the Brah- 
minical, with its organized Hierarchy, and Canonical Books, 
and those minor beliefs and superstitions which have pre 
vailed in less formal shape over the world, there are many 
degrees of importance, down to the fairy tales and folk-lore 
which our fathers banished to the nursery, but which the 
scholars of our generation find nowise unworthy of notice ; 


and which certainly formed during the Middle Ages a sort 
of secondary popular religion in Europe. Few problems 
are more curious than the rise and the distribution of these 
invertebrate creeds (if we may so describe them) over the 
globe. The short and easy method of our fathers which 
derived them all out of that very capacious receptacle, 
Noah s Ark, will hardly serve our turn better now than in 
the case of the beasts and plants of South America and 
New Zealand. Perhaps, as our zoologists and botanists 
have discovered that in geology lies the key to their secrets, 
and that the distribution of the fauna and flora is every 
where the monument of the changes of land and sea in far 
off epochs, so the myths and emblems which we likewise 
find scattered apparently so unaccountably, may finally be 
all affiliated to the races of men among whom they originally 
sprung, and who as aborigines or conquerors have dwelt in 
the localities where they flourish. As Heraldry has been 
often the clue to Genealogy, so may fables and forms of 
worship, often of the lightest or the rudest kind, afford 
hints of incalculable value in aiding the philologist and 
the ethnologist to track out the various branches of the 
human family in their wanderings over the globe. How 
it is that during all their journey ings these heirlooms of 
fancy never seem to drop ; how they endure through succes 
sive religious conversions and reformations, springing up 
like wild flowers after the plough has turned again and 
again the ground they live in, is a marvel of psychology. 
We cannot explain it ; we can only note the fact that while 
"marble may moulder, monuments decay," while some of 
the noblest works of the human mind have been destroyed 
in the conflagration of libraries, while poems, pictures, 
statues, which gold could not purchase now, have dis 
appeared out of the treasure-house of humanity for ever, 
these mere idle superstitions, these playful fairy legends, 



these gossamer threads of thought, float on for ever in the 
very air we breathe. The Jupiter of Phidias has long been 
dust, but the story of Llewellyn s dog is still told from 
the Himalayas to Snowdon, and will be told while the Aryan 
race survives upon the globe. 1 

Obscure forms of religion and crude superstitious beliefs 
and observances have in them both the general antiquarian 
interests of this curious order of wild-flower myths, and 
also the special theological value of disclosing to us the 
first feeble stirrings of the religious sentiment, the half- 
blind "feeling after God if haply they might find him," 
of yet infant nations, conscious of want and dependence, 
and dimly conscious also of an unseen Power on whom they 
depend. The instinct which makes the tendril of the vine 
creep up the stem of the oak, and its roots shoot through 
the dark soil towards the water, even so blind and uncon 
scious seem these first religious impulses of man. Among 
them, therefore, the true principles of science call upon us 
to look for the simple elements of those sentiments which 
have long since become complex and conventional. And 
they afford us more than such a field for study ; they give us 
by their mere existence the reassuring proof that Religion 
is not a matter primarily of ideas, but of Sentiments ; and 
that Sentiments are permanent in human nature^ while the 
Ideas in which they clothe themselves, the fashions of their 
intellectual garments, for ever change. The first shape which 
each sentiment assumes as it passes out of the world of feeling 
into the world of thought a shape gross in the lower race, the 
Scythian, the Negro, the Australian ; finer and more delicate 
in the higher, the Greek, the Persian, or the Jew, that Idea 
is by degrees worn out, to be replaced by another. But the 
feeling which originated it, though constantly developed 

1 See the wonderful collection of these tales in Baring- Gould s Curious Myths 
of the Middle Ages. 


and exalted, is never lost. The "conservation of force" 
holds as true of human Sentiment as of any physical agent. 
The sweeping away of old religious Ideas (which Comte would 
have us think equivalent to the sweeping aw r ay of Religion), 
is in fact quite an opposite process. It is the periodical 
clearance of a mass of mental rubbish which has become a 
burden and a stoppage, and the opening of free space for 
new development, not of ideas absolutely true, yet of ideas 
relatively nearer to truth than those which preceded them. 
The cycles of religious revolution, the secular outbursts of 
apparently the most desolating Doubt, are but the new 
births of Religion. The serpent casts its outgrown scales, 
and renews its immortal youth ; the phoenix rises fresh- 
plumed from its pyre. 

A large contribution to our knowledge of these cruder 
religions of the world, these stirrings of the religious 
sentiment among the inferior races of mankind, has been 
made in the splendid book which I now purpose to review. 
Mr. Fergusson is the Murchison of a new Siluria ; he 
has traced out and described a buried world, underlying 
all the continents of the present globe. The subject 
is almost new in his hands. The share which the wor 
ship of Serpents and Trees has had in universal prime 
val history has probably attracted the passing thoughts of 
scarcely a dozen living scholars ; and certainly the vast 
extension of it, which our author exhibits, is altogether 
a fresh discovery. I think I shall hardly wrong my readers 
if I assert that even such a.s have taken interest in compara 
tive mythology will find these researches open to them a 
flood of new ideas. For the majority of us, were we to 
follow Gibbon s advice, and before beginning to read, go 
over in our minds during a country walk all that we have 
already learned touching the theme of this book, it is to 


be feared that a very short excursion indeed would suffice 
for our purpose. " There were the serpents of Eden and of 
Moses ; and -ZEsculapius serpents ; and there was the sect 
of Gnostics called Ophites, because they worshipped ser 
pents ; and the idols of Yishnu have generally got serpents 
twisted about them ; and in the Norse mythology there was 
the great Midgard serpent. Then for Tree-worship there 
was the Norse Yggdrasil ; and the Tree of Life and Know 
ledge in Eden ; and Apollo s Laurel, and Minerva s Olive ; 
and the Oaks of Dodona, and the groves mentioned in 
the Bible ; and it is said the Druids worshipped Hesus 
under the form of an oak, and cut the mistletoe at Yule- 
tide a practice not yet exploded in England." That is, I 
venture to think, not a very unfair summary of the amount 
of knowledge possessed by nine out of ten " general readers " 
about the matters on which Mr. Fergusson has given us 
a magnificent quarto volume. Wishing that some hydraulic 
press could be invented to enable weak reviewers to condense 
into magazine articles such masses of facts, I shall do my 
best to present the more salient conclusions of a work whose 
costliness necessarily limits its circulation, and of which 
therefore an analysis will be generally more desired than 
a critique. 

My first remark must be that the way in which the book 
is compiled is itself unusual. Such works mostly seem to 
have their origin in a theory of some sort which has oc 
curred to a philosopher in his study. Anxious to bring it 
forth to the world, he makes a nest for it of a reasonable 
quantity of sticks and straws, collected wherever he can 
find any suitable to his purpose ; and then sits down and 
broods over it till it comes out full fledged in a goodly 
octavo. The present tome has apparently taken shape in 
quite a different manner. Mr. Fergusson having found a 
quantity of sculptures bearing traces of a curious extinct 


religion, first set about studying them accurately, draw 
ing from them sundry inferences, and illustrating them by 
parallels taken from history and archaeology ; all very much 
as a geologist who finds the track of a foot in the sandstone, 
by degress obtains a pretty distinct idea of the long lost 
beast which left it there uncounted ages ago. As Mr. 
Fergusson has not had the pretension to start with the 
statement of any large generalization, the reader and more 
especially the reviewer misses that easy synthesis which 
at once saves him the labour of careful perusal and enables 
him to assert, with dogmatism equal to that of the author, 
that he does, or does not, agree with his conclusions. There 
is nothing for the student of Tree and Serpent Worship to 
do but to read the book all through carefully ; and when 
he has done so, and perceived all the stores of information 
which are brought together in its construction, he will prob 
ably be more inclined to admire the author s modest way 
of putting forth the few hypotheses he ventures upon, than 
to presume hastily to contradict him. 

The two idolatries of Trees and of Serpents, seem to have 
been nearly always allied and co-existent. Sometimes the 
worship of Trees was most prominent, sometimes that of 
Serpents, but it is rare to find the one altogether dissevered 
from the other. In many cases the religion was a well-defined 
latria of living Serpents kept in temples erected for them ; 
and of Trees held as objects of direct worship and laden 
with gifts. In other cases, the serpents and trees were 
merely honoured in subsidiary manner, with a sort of 
dulia, while higher gods received more direct and formal 

The origin of both Tree and Serpent Worship Mr. 
Fergusson finds very simply in the natural qualities of both 
objects. We are not called upon by him either to identify 


the etymologies of Fire and Serpent ; or to look on the 
latter as the types of the former; nor yet does he ask us to 
see that the Serpent means the "Sun," and a Tree the 
"Moon," or vice versa; or "Heavens," or the "Dawn," or 
any other astronomical phenomenon whatever. "With all 
their poetry and all their usefulness," he says, " we can 
hardly feel astonished that the primitive races of mankind 
should have considered Trees as the choicest gift of the 
gods, or believed that their spirits still delighted to dwell 
amongst the branches or spoke oracles through the rustling 
of their leaves. Nor is the worship of the Serpent so 
strange as it might at first sight appear." As old Sanchon- 
iathon remarked, " The serpent alone of all animals, without 
legs or arms, or the usual appliances for locomotion, still 
moves with singular celerity. He periodically casts his 
skin, and by that process, as the ancients fabled, renews his 
youth. Thus, too, a serpent can exist for an indefinite time 
without food or hunger." 

Strangely enough to our apprehension this honour of the 
serpent was not one mainly of fear but of love : 

Although fear might seem to account for the prevalence of the 
worship, on looking closely at it, we are struck with phenomena of 
a totally different character. When we first meet Serpent worship, 
either in the wilderness of Sinai, the groves of Epidaurus, or in the 
Sarmatian huts, the serpent is always the Agathodsemon, the bringer 
of health and good fortune. He is the teacher of wisdom, the oracle 
of future events. His worship may have originated in fear, but long 
before we became acquainted with it, it had passed to the opposite 
extreme among its votaries. Any evil that ever was spoken of the 
serpent came from those who were outside the pale, and were trying to 
depreciate what they considered as an accursed superstition. 

May we not add that the idolatry of Trees and Serpents, 
like other idolatries, must have always involved some vague 
conception of a beneficent Spirit represented by, or, at most, 
enshrined in, the idol ? The worship of reptiles and vege- 


tables as suoh can never have really occurred among man 
kind; any more than the worship of a marble statue of 
Apollo or a wooden one of the Madonna as a statue and 
nothing more. 

The races of men among whom Tree and Serpent worship 
prevailed were not at any time either the Aryans or Semites. 
The Touranians, undoubtedly, were its great supporters ; so 
much so, that Mr. Fergusson thinks himself justified in 
arguing backward from any distinct symptom of such 
worship, to the existence, in the same age and country, of a 
considerable Touranian or, at all events, inferior population 
underlying the Aryan or Semitic conquerors. Thus the 
Serpent dulia of the Jews he attributes to the Canaanites ; 
and that of the Greeks to the Pelasgi, whom he considers as 
Touranians, and imagines to have survived and carried down 
their traditions after the return to Greece of the descendants 
of Hercules (the Serpent- slayer, i.e., conqueror of Serpent- 
worshippers), even to the latest ages of Greek civilization. 
In any case it appears that new and valuable hints for the 
historian and ethnologist will hereafter be found in following 
out this " trail of the serpent " in the literature, the coins, 
and the sculptures of the ancient world. 

A curious circumstance connected with Serpent worship is 
its apparently arbitrary alliance with the practice of Human 
Sacrifices. Mr. Fergusson considers it to be established that 
wherever human sacrifices existed there also was the Serpent 
an object of worship ; and where they have been most fre 
quent and terrible, as in Mexico and Dahomey, there also 
has serpent worship been the typical form of the popular 
religion. Nevertheless, no direct connexion between the two 
things is traceable. "No human sacrifice was anywhere 
made to propitiate the serpent, nor was it ever pretended 
that any human victim was ever devoured by the snake- god." 
And, though the sacrifices are never found without the 


serpent worship, the serpent worship has often largely pre 
vailed without the sacrifices. 

Before commencing the description of Serpent Worship 
and its monuments in India, which form the great substance 
of his book, Mr. Fergusson takes a rapid survey of the traces 
left by the same cultus all over the world. The amount of 
information condensed into these fifty quarto pages is very 
remarkable, and it would be vain to attempt to give any 
fair resume of it in still smaller compass. Nevertheless, I 
must endeavour to state the outlines of his conclusions. 

Dahomey is the present chief seat of Serpent worship, 
where it is now practised with more completeness than any 
where else, and where this most ancient of idolatries may 
probably have remained from the earliest times almost un 
changed. And as the student of the new science of Pre 
historic Archaeology goes to the savages of Polynesia and 
Greenland to understand the meaning and use of the stone 
and bronze weapons he finds in the lacustrine dwellings of 
Switzerland, so the student of the pre-historic religion 
of Serpent worship will certainly do well to examine in 
Dahomey its yet surviving barbarities. The chief God of 
the national triad is the Serpent ; the second the Tree- God ; 
and the third the Ocean. " The first, called Danh gbwe, is 
esteemed the Supreme Bliss and General Good. He has a 
thousand female votaries and is worshipped with all the 
splendour his savage people can afford. The "customs" of 
Dahomey with their sacrifices of 500 or 600 victims at the 
death of a king, or of 30 or 40 as an annual slaughter to 
the honour of ancestors, are here seen in that unaccountable 
connexion with a worship of which they form no part, of 
which I have spoken above. 

In America, there is a whole w r orld of archaeological 
interest waiting for investigation. The mounds of Ohio and 
Iowa have been declared to be serpent images 1000 feet long. 


The ruined temples of Mexico and the brief mention which 
the Spanish historians deigned to give of the diabolic religion 
of their enemies, open out a most curious problem. Was 
Serpent worship indigenous in the western continent, and 
did human nature here, as so often elsewhere, seem to re 
produce for ever the same ideas ? Or, does the legend of 
Quetzal-coatl, the Feathered Serpent born of a Virgin, the 
Lycurgus and Bacchus of Central America, who came from 
some unknown land like Manco Capac of Peru, and returned 
thither, having civilized Anahuac point to a connexion in 
long past years between America and the further India 
where, at the date assigned to Quetzal-coatl, Serpent worship 
was in its glory ? Mr. Fergusson seems to incline to the 
last suggestion, yet candidly admits that the fact that all 
American Serpent worship was that of the native noxious 
Rattlesnake, argues against the Indian hypothesis. 

Returning to the old world, where Mr. Fergusson begins 
his survey, we find Egypt with only a "fractional part" of 
its great theology occupied by either trees or serpents. 1 

In Greece, as already remarked, the frequent traces of 
both worships, very loosely connected with the Olympian 
mythology, forces us to suppose that we have here an 
instance of the religions of two distinct races intermingled ; 
the lower cropping up through the higher like weeds in a 
cornfield. Not to dwell on the numerous earlier myths 
regarding Serpents, the Pythons and Hydras, Echidna and 
the Dragon of the Garden of the Hesperides (the Greek 
counterpart of the Hebrew Serpent of the Tree of Life in 
Eden), there appear actualty in historic times the Serpent 
kept in the Erechtheum, whose escape warned the Athenians 

1 A learned friend has favoured me with some notes tending to show that Mr. 
Fergusson, in this short chapter, has not done justice to the extent of Serpent 
worship and Serpent honour in Egypt. He seems, especially, to have overlooked 
the importance of the myths relating to Apoph or Typhon, the Evil Serpent, 
a personage whose history it is particularly desirable to explore. 


to fly from the Persians ; and the serpents of .ZEsculapius at 
Epidaurus, which the Eoman Senate sent an embassy to 
obtain. The latter incident indeed will form one of the 
most astonishing in that future History of Opinion of 
which I have spoken. The facts are stated by Livy (x. 47), 
Valerius Maximus (i. 8, 2), and Aurelius Victor (xxii. 1) ; 
while Ovid devotes a long poem (Met. xv. 5) to their embel 
lishment. A plague, it seems, ravaged Rome, and in the year 
of the city 462 more than a century, be it remembered, after 
Socrates, two generations after Plato a living Serpent was 
solemnly fetched from Greece to Italy, and received with divine 
honours on the banks of the Tiber by the Senate and People 
of Rome ! Of course, on the advent of the sacred reptile 
"the plague was stayed" ; and JEsculapius received in Italy 
the thanksgivings which, according to the Book of Numbers, 
were offered on a strangely similar occasion in the Arabian 
Desert to Jehovah. From this time a Serpent, portrayed 
in a conventional attitude, was in the Roman world the 
recognized type of a sacred place ; and the Epidaurian 
serpents, as Pausanias tells, held their place among the gods 
of Greece till long after the age of Christ. 

Nor did the twin-idolatry of Trees fail to find its place 
in the hospitable pantheon of Greece. When Minerva 
contended with Neptune for the patronage of Athens (an 
event which Phidias did not disdain to commemorate in the 
magnificent western pediment of the Parthenon, now in 
the British Museum) she created the Olive Tree to match 
Neptune s gift of the Horse, and planted this her Tree of 
Knowledge on the Acropolis, committing it to the care of the 
Serpent-god, Erichthonius. The Erechtheum, whose ruins 
still form the loveliest Ionic temple in the world, was built 
over the spot, and the Olive stood, as Fergusson believes, 
in the beautiful portion of the Pandroseum which is sup 
ported by Caryatids, an hypothesis fairly accounting for 


the hitherto inexplicable form of that gem of architecture. 
Beneath, in a cell adjoining the well of Neptune, lived 
the Serpent, whose actual reptilian existence seems proved 
by the fact mentioned by Herodotus (viii. 41), that when 
the Persians approached Athens, the Serpent was an 
nounced to have refused its food and fled ; whereupon the 
people at length quitted their city in despair, as warned by 
their tutelary deity. 

The Oak, or rather grove of oaks, at Dodona, was always 
attributed by tradition to the planting of Pelasgi, and 
existed till the time of Constantine ; a period of at least 
two thousand years. The oracle which spoke therein was 
said to come from the sacred pigeons rustling among the 
leaves, and from bells with which the branches were hung. 
No temple existed there ; the grove itself was the sacred 
place. Again, the laurel of Apollo at Delphi was as sacred 
as the oak of Dodona. Under its shade the Python took 
refuge ; one combination more of Tree and Serpent. 

In ancient Italy the Etruscan relics preserve no memorial 
of the kind we are seeking. But at Lanuvium, sixteen 
miles from Rome, was a dark grove sacred to Juno ; and 
near it the abode of a great serpent, the oracle of female 
chastity. In later ages we find Persius speaking of the 
custom above mentioned of painting certain conventional 
figures of serpents on walls, to indicate the sanctity of the 
spot ; a practice of which there are several examples at 
Herculaneum and Pompeii. Most surprising of all, however, 
are the legends of Romans and Greeks born of serpents. 
Scipio Africanus is said to have believed himself the son 
of a snake ; and Augustus allowed it to be understood 
that his mother Atia had received him from a serpent. 
Alexander the Great before he undertook to prove himself 
the son of Jupiter Ammon was supposed (apparently by 
Philip himself) to be the son of a serpent who actually 


appeared to him in a dream in later years to save the. life 
of his general Ptolemy. To find such fables gravely told 
by writers like Plutarch and Lucian, and even mentioned 
by Cicero without any expression of contempt, is truly 
astonishing. We ask ourselves, Can there be any legends 
current amongst us which will seem equally absurd to 
posterity ? 

Passing from Rome to her barbarian conquerors we find 
among the Teutonic tribes no traces of Serpent worship, 
but many of the worship of Trees. The last relic of this 
old creed is probably the Stock-am- Eisen, the Apprentice s 
tree, still standing in the heart of Vienna. In ancient 
Sarmatia and modern Poland both Trees and Serpents were 
worshipped by the peasantry even to the limits of the 
present century. 

Scandinavia offers the most complete puzzle to mytholo- 
gists, and an excellent illustration of the folly of relying 
on mere philological analogies in such researches. Were 
Woden, or Boden, and Buddha the same person ? Woden 
came from the East to Europe just when active missionaries 
were spreading Buddhism on all sides ; and the fourth day 
of the week is Wednesday in the West, and Budhbar in the 
East. But can we leap to the conclusion that the religions 
were therefore identical ? Fergusson says, " There are not, 
perhaps, two other religions in the world so diametrically 
opposed to one another, nor two persons so different as the 
gentle Sakya Muni, who left a kingdom to alleviate the 
sufferings of mankind, and Odin, the terrible and severe 
God, the Father of slaughter/ ): If the two religions came 
anywhere in contact, it was at their base, for underlying 
both was a strange substratum of Tree and Serpent wor 
ship. The Yggdrasil Ash Tree, in the Norse mythology, 
with one of its roots over the Well of Knowledge, and 
with Nidhog gnawing its stem, suggests obvious analo- 


gies, not only with, the Tree of Knowledge and Serpent 
of Eden, but with the Bo-Tree of Buddha. Olaus Magnus 
in the sixteenth century speaks of serpents as still kept as 
household gods in Sweden : a circumstance which, when we 
remember the insignificant nature of the northern reptile, 
seems to point to some Southern or Eastern tradition of its 

In Gaul, as in Germany, Tree worship seems to have 
prevailed; but of Serpent worship there is no trace, save 
one childish legend reported by Pliny as from the Druids. 

As to Great Britain, Mr. Fergusson s views will probably 
be more contested than those he has given of any other 
country. Perhaps most readers, to whom the notion of a 
connexion between the Druids and Stonehenge and Serpent 
worship have been more or less vaguely familiar, will be 
startled to learn that " there are only two very short para 
graphs in any classical authors which mention the Druids 
in connexion with Britain ; not one that mentions Serpent 
worship ; and not one English author prior to the thirteenth 
century who names either the one or the other." Our 
knowledge on the subject is almost wholly derived from the 
Welsh Triads ; and, even in them, the word Druid occurs 
but rarely. The relation of Stonehenge and Avebury to 
either Druidism or Serpent Worship, Mr. Fergusson treats 
as wholly imaginary. The bare Wiltshire downs were, he 
thinks, the very last places likely for the grove-loving Celts 
to choose for their temples, though they might (especially 
if battle-fields) choose them for the site of tombs. 

On the east coast of Scotland are many megalithic monu 
ments, several of which bear sculptures of serpents, while 
others, apparently of almost equal antiquity, bear the 
Christian cross. To all appearance these serpent monuments 
mark the furthest wave of the great Woden-movement 
which spread from the Caucasus to Scandinavia. 


After this hasty sweep over Africa, America, and Europe, 
which I have permitted myself to make in the reverse 
order of that adopted by Mr. Fergusson ; after finding 
Serpent and Tree Worship alive in Dahomey, and leaving 
its broad and unmistakable traces in Central America, an 
cient Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, Germany, Gaul and Britain ; 
we turn with a new comprehension of the universality of 
these marvellous delusions to the brief hints which the 
Jewish Scriptures have preserved of their existence, even 
among the people who had Isaiah for their prophet, and 
the author of the Book of Job for their great poet. 

The Garden of Eden, bounded on one side by the Eu 
phrates, was doubtless conceived of as occupying a position 
in Mesopotamia. Here, in the earliest record of Semitic 
thought, we find the two inseparable relics, the Tree and 
the Serpent ; a Tree of Knowledge and a Serpent " more 
subtle than any beast of the field," doubtless the Hea or 
Hoa, the Serpent God, the third of the Babylonish triad of 
gods. Very ingenious is Mr. Fergusson s idea that this 
story, and the curse of the serpent, was introduced by the 
monotheistic author of the fragment of Genesis in which 
it is found, for the purpose of teaching the hatred of the 
early Serpent worship, which in his time and for ages after 
wards was doubtless still flourishing. Jehovah cursed the 
serpent, and " put enmity between his seed (i.e. his wor 
shippers) and man of woman born." May I surmise that 
here also we find the traces of that notion, so prevalent, 
according to Sir J. Lubbock, in the border land of pre 
historic times; that the later race alone is human, the pro 
geny of a mortal woman, and the elder primeval race, with its 
ruder creed and weapons, merely impish, dwarf, and bestial ? 

Next to the Tree of Eden, a trace of the same wor 
ship may be found in Abraham s terebinth at Mamre; 
worshipped, according to Eusebius, down to the time of 


Constantine, and still the same, if we may believe tradi 
tion, which spreads its leafy boughs laden with acorns 
beside the vineyards of Eshkol. 

Again, we find in Exodus, Jehovah speaking to Moses in 
the Burning Bush (or Tree) a Tree, according to Josephus, 
hallowed before the event. At the same moment, Moses s 
Bod was turned into a Serpent ; a wonder afterwards 
repeated by both Moses and Aaron; and imitated by the 
Egyptian magicians then and ever since, by means of 
pressure on the back of the serpent s neck productive of 
temporary catalepsy. 

But the most suggestive of all the stories of Serpent 
dulia is that told in Numbers xxi. The Israelites having 
murmured as usual, " the Lord sent fiery serpents, and they 
bit the people." On their repentance Moses is directed to 
"make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole" (the caduceus 
of the Healing God), " and it shall come to pass that every 
one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live." 
The worship thus inaugurated is no more mentioned in the 
Pentateuch ; but assuming the received chronology to be 
anything near the truth, it actually survived for more than 
seven centuries, and in the days of Hezekiah "the children 
of Israel did burn incense" to the self-same brazen Serpent, 
actually preserved in the very Temple (2 Kings xviii. 4). 
The reformer king at the same time " cut down the Groves, 
and brake in pieces the Serpent," thus combining in common 
ruin the two ever-parallel idolatries. But no religion was 
pure enough to destroy altogether the marvellous infatu 
ation. Even after the great Christian Reformation, the 
Serpent worship cropped up like the hydra itself. The 
Ophites or Serpentinian Gnostics preferred, as Tertullian 
tells us, the Serpent to Christ, "inasmuch as the former 
brought the knowledge of good and evil into the world!" 
(Tertullian, De Prescript. Hereticorum, cxlvii.) 


We now pass to Serpent Worship in ancient Persia, and 
here the theory of the author that the Aryan races were 
never, and the Touranian races always, serpent worship 
pers, meets with strong confirmation. In the theology of 
Zoroaster, Dahaka, or Zohak, was an evil being created 
by Ahrimanes. In Persian mythology he is a king who 
reigned at Babel for 1000 years, having two serpents 
growing between his shoulders, and daily devouring men 
until his own destruction by the "Brilliant Feridoun," the 
servant of Ormuzd. Here again, the religion of the pre- 
Aryan, as in Genesis that of the pre-Semitic race, is repre 
sented as detestable and accursed. 

The Tree worship of ancient Persia and India is even 
more curious than the passing spurn of Zoroastrianism at 
Serpent worship. Both Zend Avesta and Yedas are full 
of mysterious allusions to the Horn, or Soma tree, and its 
sacramental juice. In modern times the Brahmins have 
taken a creeping shrub, the Asckpias, to be the Soma ; 
and its sacred juice that profane German Haug has 
unhesitatingly styled " a nasty drink." But there is 
reason to believe with Windischmann, that the original 
Homa was a very different tree, and identical with the 
Tree Gogard, the "Tree which enlightened the eyes." 
Suspicions may also exist that it was the Ampelus, the 
Vine of Bacchus. May I add the suggestion (from the 
audacity of which Mr. Fergusson must be exonerated), 
that the Homa, the Soma, the Gogard, the Ampelus 
of Bacchus, and the Tooba tree of Mahomet, were all one 
with the Vine of Noah ; and that all the awful and solemn 
mysteries connected therewith may be summed up in the 
Anglo-Saxon tongue as " getting drunk " ? 

Cashmere was a very kingdom of Serpents and their wor 
shippers or Nagas, as the Indians call them ; namely, human 
beings with serpents growing between their shoulders, or 


at least so conventionally depicted. The connexion between 
the early Buddhists and these Serpentinians of Cashmere, 
helps our author s further theories considerably ; but space 
fails me to detail particulars. 

In Cambodia, in the further India, Serpent worship reached 
its utmost splendour. The great temple of Nakhon-Yat, 
wholly devoted to this strange cultus, is even in its ruins 
one of the noblest buildings in the world. First discovered 
in 1858 and 1860 by M. Mouhot, they have since been 
photographed by Mr. J. Thomson, and exhibit architecture 
of the utmost splendour, and of a style curiously resembling 
the Roman form of Doric. Six hundred feet square at the 
base, the building rises in the centre to the height of 180 
feet, " while every part is covered with carvings in stone, 
generally beautiful in design and always admirably adapted 
to their situation." Every angle of the roof, every cornice, 
every entablature, bears the seven-headed serpent ; and in 
stead of the Greek cella with the statue of the genius loci) 
there are courts containing tanks, in which (we are com 
pelled to infer) the living Serpents dwelt and were adored. 
The date of this marvellous structure must be somewhere 
about the tenth century of our era ; at all events before 
the fourteenth, when the Siamese conquered Cambodia, 
the cities of the Serpent worshippers were deserted, and 
Buddhism was established. 

In China the traces of Serpent worship are obscure ; the 
most notable being the popularity of the emblem of a mon 
strous heraldic dragon ; and a legend of two heaven-sent 
serpents who attended the first ablutions of Confucius. 

Scattered all over Oceanica and Australia are instances 
enough to countenance the hypothesis that it was by way 
of the islands the cultus penetrated to Central America. 

All the Cingalese Buddhist histories describe Buddha as 
himself converting the Nagas of Ceylon ; but in Mr. Fergus- 



son s opinion, the conversion was far from complete. Tree 
worship has been more openly adhered to in the island than 
that of Serpents. King Asoka, the Constantine of Buddhism, 
B.C. 250, sent a branch of the Bo-tree to the king of Anura- 
dhapura, who received it with the utmost honours and planted 
it in the centre of his capital. The city is now a desert and 
its temples in ruins ; but the Bo-tree still flourishes, and 
every year thousands of pilgrims repair to it to offer up 
prayers which are " more likely to be answered if uttered in 
its presence." 

Reaching India at last, the sphere of his principal re 
searches, Mr. Fergusson attempts a preliminary sketch of the 
very difficult ethnology and religious history of the penin 
sula. Into this maze I cannot spare space to follow him. 
His leading idea here, as throughout the book, is that 
Serpent worship is always the cropping-up of the super 
stition of an underlying Touranian race, and that to neither 
of the great Aryan immigrations called the Solar and the 
Lunar races was it due. The Aryan Buddha, however, by 
falling back on other Touranian ideas, caused its great 
revival; and the Serpent-emblazoned Topes of Sanchi and 
Amravati are the existing monuments of the fact. With 
the disappearance of Buddhism from Hindostan and the rise 
of modern Brahminism under the leadership of Sankara 
Acharya about the beginning of the ninth century A.D., the 
erection of such buildings ceased ; but not on that account 
has the worship of either living or sculptured serpents died 
out of India. To the description of these two great Topes, 
and the magnificent collection of photographs and litho 
graphs of their sculptures, the remainder of Mr. Fergusson s 
book is devoted. 1 As the descriptions are, of course, not 

1 A beautiful model of one of the gateways of the Sanchi Tope formed one 
of the most interesting objects in the Fine Arts Department of the International 
Exhibition of 1871, in South Kensington. 


intelligible without the plates, I can only offer a general 
account of these very remarkable ruins. 

Before doing so, however, I must allow myself to give 
utterance to an expression of surprise at Mr. Fergusson s 
doctrine, repeated here from his Architecture, that the Aryan 
race were never builders, because " they always had too firm 
a conviction of the immortality of the soul, and consequently 
of the existence of a future state, ever to care much for a 
brick or stone immortality in this world ; and no material art 
satisfied the cravings of their intellectual powers." (p. 78.) 
It may be a fact that the Aryan races were not architects. 
I cannot presume to argue in the face of Mr. Fergusson s 
vast erudition on the subject ; albeit to admit the Aryan 
origin of the peoples who built the temples of Athens and 
the churches of Rome, and York, and Strasbourg, and yet 
maintain that the genius of architecture is foreign to their 
blood, is, to say the least, a startling paradox. But whatever 
Mr. Fergusson s fact may be, the reason he assigns for it is, 
of course, open to criticism, and against this reason I cannot 
but vigorously protest. That a vivid belief in a future life 
would nullify all ambition for a stone immortality, is surely 
very improbable, in the first place ; and in the second, the 
example of the Egyptians seems to prove precisely the 
opposite conclusion. If ever there were a race which 
intensely felt the consciousness of the great truth, "that 
the soul of a man never dies," it was that same race which so 
vehemently desired a stone immortality, that it loaded the 
earth with Pyramids, which are hardly so much works of 
architectural art, as mere dumb expressions of that longing. 
It is impossible that Mr. Fergusson can have overlooked this 
fact. I cannot conjecture how he disregards it. 

The ruins of Sanchi in Central India between the towns of 
Bhilsa and Bhopal, and those of Amravati on the Kistna, are 
of an age immediately preceding and following the Christian 


era. Those of Sanchi are the most ancient ; the principal 
Tope, as there is good reason to believe, having been erected 
by King Asoka, about B.C. 250. Stone building was then 
evidently in its infancy in India, and only beginning to 
replace wood, whose forms of construction it is made to 
imitate. All the details, and especially the forms of the 
very singular surrounding stone rails and their gateways, 
are, as Mr. Fergusson says, " very good carpentry, but very 
poor masonry." Three forms pervade all the monuments of 
both Sanchi and Amravati : 1. Topes or Stupas, mound-like 
buildings erected for the preservation of relics ; 2. Chaityas, 
which, both in form and purpose, resembled early Christian 
churches ; 3. Yiharas, residences of priests and monks 
attached to the Topes and Chaityas. The Topes at Sanchi 
form part of a great group of such monuments, extending 
over a district of seventeen miles, and numbering forty or 
fifty tumuli. The great Tope consists of an enormous mound, 
built in the following manner. First, a basement 121 feet 
in diameter, and 14 feet high. On the top of this a terrace 
or procession path 5 feet 6 inches wide. Within this rises 
the dome, a truncated hemisphere 39 feet high, originally 
coated with chunam. On the top of the dome, is a level 
platform measuring 34 feet across. Within this was a 
square Tee or relic box, of sixteen square pillars with rails, 
and, over all, a circular support for the umbrella which 
always crowned these monuments. But the most remark 
able feature of the building is the rail, which surrounds it at 
the distance of 9 feet 6 inches from the base, and consists of 
100 pillars 11 feet high, exclusive of the gigantic gateways. 
These gateways are covered with the richest and most 
fantastic sculptures, both in the round, and in bas-relief. 
About one half of their sculptures represent the worship of 
Trees or of Dagobas (relic shrines), others represent scenes 
in the life of Buddha, and others again ordinary events, 


feasting, concerts, and so on. The merit of these sculptures, 
Mr. Fergusson considers as " superior to that of Egypt, but 
inferior to the art as practised in Greece." They are 
" extremely different to the usual sculptures brought home 
from India. Neither at Sanchi nor at Amravati are there 
any of those many-armed or many-headed divinities, who 
form the staple of the modern Hindoo Pantheon. There are 
none of those monstrous combinations of men with the heads 
of elephants, or lions, or boars. All the men and women are 
represented as acting as men and women have acted in all 
time." The sculptures at Sanchi are the more rude and 
vigorous. Those at Amravati are on a scale of excellence, 
"perhaps nearer to the contemporary art of the Eoman 
Empire under Constantino, than any other that could be 
named, or of the early Italian Renaissance." 

Two races may be readily distinguished as depicted in 
the sculptures. First, the Hindoos, originally pure Aryans, 
though of mixed blood at the age of the sculptures, evidently 
the dominant race. The men wear the dhoti and turban ; 
the women are covered with jewels, but strangely divested 
of clothing. This last is a feature so remarkable that, 
being also found elsewhere, Mr. Fergusson concludes that 
before the Mahometan conquest nudity in India conveyed 
no sense of indecency. The second race wore kilts and 
cloaks, and (most marked peculiarity) are represented 
with beards, which the Aryans never wear. The women 
wear neat and decent dresses and no ornaments. It would 
appear that these are the aborigines of the country. 1 

1 A great Oriental scholar, between whose judgment and that of Mr. Fergusson 
I cannot presume to hold the balance, maintains that our author is wrong in 
treating any of the sculptures as historical records. They are, he conceives, mere 
illustrations of the fairy tales popular in the age to which they belong. The 
distinction between Fairy Tales, Mythology, and Eeligion, in early epochs, ap 
pears by no means easy to define. Whether the works in question may be taken 
to belong to the same class as the frieze of the Parthenon portraying the actual 
contemporary Panathenaic Processions ; or to that of the metopes of the same 


Some obscurity exists as to the precise meaning of the 
Serpents introduced into these sculptures. Are the Hindoos 
intended to honour them ? Do the serpents (nagas) honour 
the Hindoos ? But no doubt at all exists about the reverence 
which men are everywhere represented as paying to Trees. 
Plate xxv. for example represents the Bo-tree of Buddha 
growing out of a temple. Devas bear offerings to it above 
and four Hindoos stand before it, below, with closed hands 
in the attitude of prayer. "Taken altogether," says Mr. 
Fergusson, "the Tree is the most important object of wor 
ship " in the Sanchi Tope. "It is difficult to convey an 
idea of the extreme frequency of the illustrations of it." 

The Amravati Topes are in a much more ruinous state 
than those of Sanchi. Fortunately Sir Walter Elliot pro 
cured a quantity of sculptures from them, and sent them 
to England in 1856. These discovered by Mr. Fergusson 
in 1867 in the coach-house of Fife House are a perfect 
treasury of knowledge of ancient Indian religion and man 
ners, as the beautiful photographs of them in this volume 
amply testify. The great Tope at Amravati was of enormous 
size. Its dimensions as recorded by Colonel Mackenzie are 
195 feet for the inside diameter of the outer circle and 165 
feet for that of the inner. On the first of the measurements 
Mr. Fergusson appends the following note : " By a curious 
coincidence this is exactly twice the diameter of the outer 
circle at Stonehenge. The outer rail in the Indian example 
is 14 feet high ; that at Stonehenge is as nearly as csfti now 
be measured 15ft. 6in." In Mr. Fergusson s opinion the 
two buildings were erected much about the same time and 
for the same purpose, viz., that of cenotaphs or relic-shrines. 
Each of the four gateways at Amravati projected about 30 

temple illustrating the fabulous legend of the wars of the Centaurs and Lapithge ; 
or, lastly, to that of the colossal group of the pediment representing the great 
mystery of Athenian religion, the birth of Pallas Athene, I do not venture to 
offer an opinion. 


feet beyond the outer rail, but they are all so much ruined 
that the dimensions cannot be exactly ascertained. The 
sculptures brought away proved on examination to be of 
three kinds : 1. Large and coarse, belonging to the cen 
tral building. 2. Carvings so delicate as to seem rather 
to belong to ivory than to stone belonging to the inner rail. 
3. A group belonging to the outer rail. The quantity of 
these sculptures was amazing. The central discs of the 
pillars alone contained from 6000 to 7000 figures : 

"If we add to these the continuous frieze above, and the sculptures 
above and below the discs on the pillars, there probably were not less 
than from 120 to 140 figures for each intercolumniation, say 12,000 
to 14,000 in all. The inner rail probably contains even a greater 
number of figures than this, but they are so small as more to resemble 
ivory carving, but except perhaps the great frieze at Nakhon Vat (in 
Cambodia), there is not even in India, and certainly not in any other 
part of the world, a storied page of sculpture equal in extent to what 
this must have been when complete. If not quite, it must in all prob 
ability have been nearly perfect less than a century ago." 

The subjects of these sculptures are of course very various 
animals, bulls, elephants, etc., very well depicted, feasts, 
concerts of instruments, scenes from the life of Buddha, 
and so on. Most prominent, as well as most interesting 
as touching on our subject, are the groups of Tree and 
Serpent worshippers everywhere to be observed. 

At Sanchi, the Serpent worship had been in the back 
ground, and the Tree worship prominent. At Amravati, in 
the oldest part, the Tree flourishes as usual, but in the later 
portion the Serpent appears ten or twelve times as the 
principal object of worship ; twice he shields the head of 
Buddha, and forty or fifty times he appears spreading his 
protecting hood of heads over Rajahs and persons of im 

This may be reckoned the culmination of Buddhistic Ser 
pent worship in India. Four centuries later Brahminism 


revived, and Buddhism was banished to the Further India, 
Ceylon, China, and Thibet. But was there then an end 
of this ever-reviving hydra of idolatry ? Not at all ! The 
Serpent still plays an important part in that half of Hindu 
worship which is addressed to Vishnu, and appears con 
stantly in his images, extending its hood of heads over 
him, or twisted round his throne. In a letter which Mr. 
Fergusson has published in his Appendix, dated January, 
1869, Dr. Balfour says, " Snake worship is general through 
out peninsular India, both of the sculptured form and of 
the living creature." The vitality of the idolatry is as 
remarkable as the vitality of the idol. The Serpent and 
his worship are always " scotched but not killed." l 

Let me now attempt to sum up some of the results towards 
which these marshalled facts of Mr. Fergusson most clearly 
point. In the first place, we find that a certain form of 
worship has once extended over nearly the whole known 
world. We find that it lingered long, even amid Greek 
and Roman civilization ; and subsisted side by side with the 
Monotheism of the Jews so late as the days of Hezekiah. 
We find that it cropped up through Buddhism and 
Brahminism as it had done through the Norse and Grecian 
mythologies, and that it formed a large part of the religion 
of ancient America. Finally, we find that it still exists 
in all its horrid glory among the sanguinary savages of 
Dahomey; and dwells yet unconquered among our own 
subjects of Hindostan. Here is assuredly food enough for 
reflection. Let it be remembered that this is a religion 
without a Book or an organized Church ; a religion which 
never had a Prophet or an Apostle, and which offers, 
consequently, absolutely no ground on which to exercise 

1 See for both Tree and Serpent Worship a very remarkable article, "The 
Religion of an Indian Province." Fortnightly Review, February, 1872. 


historical criticism. It is (as we said at starting) a con 
tribution to the History of Opinion and Sentiment; but 
no contribution worth naming to the ordinary History 
of facts and persons. The more we consider it the more 
mysterious it appears. That a creature like the Serpent, 
naturally dreadful, should come to be universally beloved, 
that the owner of the poison-fang should be constantly 
identified with the Restorer of Health; this is of itself a 
paradox. Again, the ever- recurring connexion between the 
Tree and the Serpent, the beautiful and beneficent veget 
able and the noxious reptile, is well-nigh incomprehensible. 
Future thinkers pondering these facts may see light through 
them, and be enabled to gain new and valuable insight 
thereby into human nature s strange recesses. For the 
present, we can but perceive that a fresh demonstration 
has been given of the Moral Unity of our race; and of 
the progressive character of Religion from a lower to a 
higher stage all over the world. Those old Aryans whose 
sculptured forms we behold upon the ruined mound of 
Sanchi with their clasped hands praying to the Tree of 
Life, were but the fathers after the flesh and after the 
spirit of us who have indeed gained many truths in advance 
of them, but who still too often 

Lift lame hands of faith, and grope 

And gather dust and chaff, and call 

To what we feel is Lord of all, 
And faintly trust the larger hope. 

ESSAY Fill. 


A FIRST glance at Bunsen s Biography and its illustrations 
suggests the reflection that to the subject thereof, the lot of 
humanity certainly "fell in pleasant places." A man who has 
always looked at life out of the windows of such abodes as 
Palazzo Caffarelli and Yilla Piccolomini, Carlton Gardens and 
Hurstmonceaux, the Hiibel at Berne and Charlottenberg 
on the Neckar, must needs be hard to please if he find it not 
a pleasant prospect. Assuredly not among such exceptionally 
dark-souled ones was Karl Christian Bunsen. Only to look 
at his beaming countenance on the title-page with its broad 
brow and smiling lips and large blue eyes d fleur de tete, 
suffices to make us recognize him as a perfect type of the 
sanguine temperament, a born disciple of that school of 
philosophy which never fails to find 

Sermons in stones and good in everything. 

Bunsen was a gifted, energetic, successful man, healthy 
in body, superabundantly healthy (were such a thing 
possible) in mind and heart, and peculiarly fortunate in the 
chief relations of life. He was happy; and if piety, earnest- 

1 A Memoir of Baron Bunsen, by Baroness Bunsen. London : Longmans, 
1868. 2 vols. 8vo. 

God in History, by C. C. J. Baron Bunsen. Translated from the German by 
Susanna Winkworth. London: Longmans, 1868. 


ness, and warmth of human kindness merit happiness, he 
deserved his pleasant lot. It is good to come close to 
such a life now and then, to be frotte cle bonte et de 
bonheur, and to warm ourselves for a few moments at such 
a hearth of kindly affections and fervid enthusiasms. We 
shall think none the less but rather the more of his last 
great book, which it is the main purpose of this paper to 
review, if we pause for a few moments over these tomes of 
loving recollections. Not for us be the criticism which pre 
judges that because a man was unusually sound in heart and 
head, unusually full of faith in God and in the Good which 
is to be "the final goal of ill," therefore his judgments ought 
to be suspected, and his conclusions set down to the score of 
unreasoning optimism. If we find what we deem errors in 
Bunsen s book, we shall not lay them at the door of his 
happy temperament, but account for them (as we most justly 
may) as the result of the hurried labour of a life rapidly 
drawing to its term. Is there cause to marvel if the reaper 
on whom the night is closing fast, eagerly panting to fulfil 
his task, should fill his bosom, not only with much ripe corn, 
but also with a few idle flowers and weeds ? 

Bunsen was born in 1791 at Corbach in Waldeck ; his 
father a soldier, his grandfather an advocate. Having com 
pleted his studies at Gottingen, he travelled to Paris, and 
thence migrated to Florence and Rome, where his early 
friend Brandis was secretary to the Prussian Legation, then 
headed by Niebiihr. Bunsen s talents were almost imme 
diately recognized by the great critic, and ere long, through 
a series of well-merited promotions, he passed from the rank 
of an attache to that of a secretary and finally himself 
became Minister ; a position he held with honour for many 
years. A visit of the King of Prussia, then Crown Prince, 
to Rome originated a friendship almost romantic, which the 
sovereign afterwards testified by the highest possible honours 


offered to Bunsen on the occasion of a journey to Berlin in 
1827. Meanwhile Bunsen had married an English lady of 
birth and fortune (Miss Waddington), whose pen now records 
in widowhood the unbroken happiness of their union. Their 
residence in the beautiful Palazzo Caffarelli in Rome with its 
splendid view over the Forum, the Coliseum, and the long 
stretches of the Appian Way, was soon brightened by the 
presence of a numerous family and by the frequent visits of 
that choicest tribe of European Bedouins who find their 
way each year to the City Eternal, at all events, in its 

Difficulties, arising out of the question of civil marriages, 
having occurred between Prussia and the Papal court, 
Bunsen s mission terminated in 1838, and he visited Eng 
land, to find all her doors open to him, and soon to form for 
the country of his wife an attachment only second to that 
which he bore to that of his fathers. On the next change 
at the embassy, the wishes of the English court aided the 
king s desire to pass over . Bunsen s lack of the usual rank 
for so high a mission. He represented Prussia thenceforth in 
London for a long series of years, beloved and honoured as, 
perhaps, no other foreigner has ever been amongst us. To the 
social world, he was the amiable and courteous gentleman, 
over-flowing with a kindliness all the more delightful, inas 
much as it surpassed by several degrees the warmth of manner 
which would have been expected, or perhaps admired, in an 
English statesman. To his diplomatic brethren, he was an 
able and honourable confrere. To the orthodox Protestant 
camp he was the champion who had withstood the Pope on 
the question of the concordat with Prussia, and had nego 
tiated the establishment of the Anglo-Prussian Bishopric 
of Jerusalem. Lastly, to the Liberal party in the English 
Church, the Broad Church of Arnold, Maurice, and Hare, 
he was the beloved friend and associate who united the 


learning of a recluse scholar with the practical power of 
a man of the world, and a freedom of critical judgment 
equalled only by the enthusiasm of his Christian piety. 

At last, his public career brought to an honourable close, 
Bunsen retired to spend his last years in study at Heidelberg 
and at Bonn, with occasional visits to the shores of the 
Mediterranean. In the society of his wife, family, and 
friends (among whom the gifted translatress of his chief 
works, Miss Winkworth, was among the most welcome), 
this good and happy man passed his elder life, neither 
deeming that few nor evil had been the days of his pil 
grimage. Just ere completing his three score years and 
ten, after a decline marked by little suffering, he died sur 
rounded by his children, and with his last strength reiterat 
ing the expression of his fervent faith in God, and Christ, 
and immortality. 

Of Bunsen s chief legacies to the world, his Description of 
Rome, his Hippolytus and his Times, his Egypt s Place in 
Universal History, his Signs of the Times, his Church of the 
Future, and his God in History, I can only here speak of 
the last, which the affectionate labours of his friend Miss 
"Winkworth have now given to the English public in a very 
perfect translation. To this work, then, I devote the re 
mainder of my space. 

When Bunsen was a young man of twenty- six, he wrote 
in his journal a prayer, of which the substance lies in these 
words : 

What in childhood I yearned after, what throughout the years of 
youth grew clearer before my soul, I will now venture to examine. 
The revelation of Thee in man s energies and efforts, Thy firm path 
through the stream of ages, I long to trace as far as may be permitted 
to me even in this body of earth. The song of praise to Thee from 
the whole of humanity in times far and near, the pains and lamenta 
tions of earth and their consolation in Thee, I wish to take in clear 


and unhindered. Preserve me in strength and truth of spirit to the 
end of my earthly existence if Thou seest good, and should I not finish 
what I shall have begun, let me find peace in the conviction that 
nothing shall perish which is done in Thee and with Thee ; and that 
what I have imperfectly, however imperfectly conceived and indis 
tinctly expressed, I shall yet hereafter behold in completeness, while 
here some other man shall perfect what I have endeavoured to do, 1 

It would truly seem as if the holy desire of his youth had 
remained the aim of his life, and that before he left the 
world he was permitted in great measure to fulfil it, and to 
leave behind him the record of the "Song of Humanity," 
such as his ear had caught it echoing across the wide plains 
of history. Of the four last years of his life, three were spent 
in the composition of this book. If in our examination of 
it, along with much that is of great and durable value, we 
find what seem in our eyes blemishes and shortcomings, at 
least we may have faith that as the former part of his 
youthful prayer has been accomplished, so has also the 
latter ; and that " what on earth he imperfectly conceived 
and indistinctly expressed, he now beholds in completeness," 
looking over all from those higher ranges of thought, those 
clearer heights of contemplation where the Immortals dwell. 

God in History has a magnificent idea for its theme. It 
aims to survey the whole field of human religious conscious 
ness for the purpose of proving the unity of the Divine plan 
in the moral order of the world. In reading it we seem to see 
the writer wearied with the cares of statecraft, quitting in his 
honoured age the camp of contending parties, and climbing 
up in solitary study to a Pisgah height, whence he could 
look down, not indeed on the Promised Land of the Future, 
but back over the long desert of the Past, through which 
the cloudy Pillar of Providence has led our race by many a 
devious road. Then, as if in haste lest his days on earth 
should be too short for the work, with the eagerness of one 

1 Life, vol. i. p. 120. 


who felt the importance of that which he had to tell, and 
with somewhat also of the authority of one who had beheld 
a vision and only announced what he had seen and heard, he 
dictated this book, through long successive hours, like 
another Milton, to his daughters. A book produced under 
such circumstances has a peculiar and exceptional value. It 
is not the value of a Critical History of Religion : that 
greatest of histories must wait yet many a day for a pen 
able to trace even its outlines. But in a true and important 
sense Bunsen s work has a merit beyond that of even a 
perfect cyclopsedia of theologic history : it is in itself a 
Lesson of Theology. Let me explain my meaning, as near 
as may be, in his own phrases. 

The question may be treated as an open one : is there, or 
is there not, a moral unity in the history of humanity ? 
Has there been a development of the higher elements of our 
nature under any law of progress ? Bunsen maintains there 
is such a moral unity, and that there has been such a de 
velopment ; and writes his book to demonstrate the thesis. 
In doing this he assumes a position towards Christian 
and heathen religions which in some respects is peculiar 
to himself. On the one hand, he allots to Christ the place 
of " the uniting bond of two worlds ; " " no product 
of the ancient world, yet its consummation ; no mere 
herald of the new world, but its abiding Archetype, the 
perennial well-spring of life to humanity through the 
Spirit." The Bible is, he thinks, the " Book of Humanity." 
Christ is set "between the two halves" of history, and the 
Hebrew religious consciousness as traced in the Bible is 
made by him the keynote and standard of all that follows. 
On the other hand, Bunsen is far indeed from denying 
that it was the same divine inspiration which spake through 
the poets and philosophers of Greece, and the prophets of 
Eastern heathendom, as in the seers and apostles of Palestine. 


The second, third, and fourth books of God in History are 
devoted to a most candid and sympathizing study of the 
religious development of the Gentile races of Asia and 
Europe ; and had the work no other merit, it would deserve 
our gratitude for the noble extracts which it contains from 
the best literature of the ancient pagan world, and the 
striking observations of the author upon them. Nor let it 
be forgotten, that fifteen years ago, when Bunsen s task was 
undertaken, such true liberalism was far less common than 
now. Mer> still thought, then, that they went very far on 
the road of toleration if they admitted that human reason, 
" unassisted reason," (that singular invention of Protestant 
piety), had taught to heathens the existence of God and the 
ruder elements of morality. The idea that God inspired 
heathens had as yet hardly been whispered in the churches, 
nor the doctrine that in any sense He "led" Greeks and 
Hindoos as well as " Israel " like sheep. The whole history 
of opinion in this matter, in truth, is most curious, and 
worthy of a moment s recall, if we would understand how 
large was the heart of Bunsen, which, already brimming 
over with Christian enthusiasm, had room also for warm 
recognition of the Divine, wherever he found it outside 

In old classic days the polytheistic nations were always 
ready to admit that other races besides themselves were 
Divine favourites. The Greeks looked with respect on the 
Thracian Xamolxis, the Assyrian Bel, and the Egytian Isis 
and Osiris. The Romans were only too enthusiastic in 
welcoming to their Pantheon the gods of conquered nations ; 
Mithras of Persia and Serapis of Egypt ; and when they 
thought they had identified their own gods with the local 
deities of other lands Jupiter with the Druids Hesus, or 
Mercury with the Egyptian Thoth no sort of jealousy 
seems to have disturbed them. The Gods were good to all. 



Higher minds among them reached to the faith in One equal 
and omnipresent Benevolence. Lucan makes Cato ask while 
passing by, unconsulted, the oracle of Ammon : 

Canst thou conceive the vast Eternal Mind 
To rock and cave and Libyan waste confined ? 
Is there a place which God would call His own 
Before a virtuous mind, His spirit s noblest throne ? 
Why seek we further ? Lo ! above, around, 
Where er thou wanderest, there may God be found, 
And prayer from every land is by His blessing crowned. l 

But it has been the opinion of modern Christendom that 
between the fortunate souls born on the hither side of the 
pale, and the hapless spirits outside it, a great gulf is already 
fixed. The Divine Light has been constantly described by 
our divines as if it fell upon the earth, not through the open 
blue expanse, with nothing hid from the heat thereof, but 
through some chink or cranny of a subterranean cave, light 
ing up the small round spot of Europe and Palestine, and 
leaving all the rest of the planet in Egyptian night. God 
has been habitually magnified from our pulpits, and infant 
lips taught to praise Him, not because his mercies are over 
all his works, but precisely on the contrary, because we 
enjoy a monopoly of the best of them, and because each 
babe among us may boast : 

I was not born, as thousands are, 

Where God was never known, 
And taught to pray a useless prayer, 

To blocks of wood and stone. 

But better thoughts of the Divine Father have come to 
us at last. A century ago men misdoubted Pope s Christ 
ianity, because he prayed to the " Father of All, in every 
age and every clime adored." But in our day, such an 
invocation would merely imply that the speaker had es- 

1 Pharsalia, b. 9. 


caped beyond the doors of the very narrowest conventicle 
of obsolete orthodoxy. Thousands of Englishmen have dwelt 
in heathen and Moslem lands ; England s empire includes 
a hundred millions of Brahminists and Buddhists ; and 
English scholars, with their French and German allies, 
have opened to us the marvellous tomes of Eastern litera 
ture, till we have been driven to feel, as never before, that 
these " heathens " were indeed " men of like passions with 
ourselves"; men who joyed and sorrowed, and struggled 
and aspired, and prayed and wrestled with the dread mys 
teries of life and death and sin and suffering, even as we 
have done. Then we have seemed to hear a voice from 
those tens of millions of our brother-men ; a cry like that 
of Esau of old, a remonstrance with God: Hast thou but 
one blessing, my Father ? And our hearts have answered, 
" Xot so ! For them also the Father, from the depths of 
forgotten time, ere yet the earliest Vedic hymn invoked 
His light for them also He has had a blessing." 

And as the modern natural philosopher with his spectrum 
proves to us that in sun and planet and star there exist 
the same elementary substances we have known upon our 
world, so does the new theologian, like Bunsen, from the 
refracted lights of truth and love shining from the poetry 
and the prayers of men of far-off lands and distant centuries, 
demonstrate to us beyond all doubt or cavil, that in their 
souls existed the self-same elements as in our own. We 
recognize at last that we have no more monopoly of God s 
love than of the sunlight ; of His spirit than of the winds 
of heaven. 

The work which Bunsen undertook, I think, he has 
in a great measure accomplished. He has shown that 
there is a moral unity in history; that there exists a 
Continuity of Forces in the spiritual world ; that the same 


Divine light has been more or less shining, the same Divine 
work more or less rapidly going forward, in all lands and 
centuries. He has shown that " through the ages one 
increasing purpose runs," and that history, fairly consulted, 
justifies the oracle in our souls which bade us believe 

One God who ever lives and loves, 

One God, one Law, one Element, 

And one far-off Divine event, 
Towards which the whole creation moves. 

This is the work Bunsen has done. His book is one long 
cumulative argument to the reality of the human conscious 
ness of Divine things ; an argument so vast and multifarious 
that even should many of its minor propositions provoke 
criticism and fail to stand the test of candid examination, 
there will yet remain overwhelming weight to enforce its 
grand conclusion. 

The book is this ; and it is also one of the most kindling 
and living works in recent literature, illuminating with 
gleams of poetical insight many an obscure valley in the 
landscape of history, bridging across many a chasm, and 
lighting up like a setting sun the flaming summits of human 
glory and genius. It is a book to inspire the coldest nature 
with somewhat of the "enthusiasm of humanity." 

Such are (in my humble estimation) the merits of God 
in History. Justice compels me to add what I deem its 
chief defects. It fails where it was almost impossible it 
should not fail. The scheme was too vast to be brought 
within the limits of one book, or even of one author s life. 
Probably the present age is that of all others in which 
it is most completely impracticable for one man, however 
gifted and laborious, to master all the materials for such 
a work. Two hundred and fifty years ago, when Raleigh 
wrote his History of the World; or one hundred years 
ago, when the seven folios of Universal History pretty well 


exhausted the known, and (as it was thought) the know- 
able concerning the ancient world, it was comparatively 
practicable for an industrious student in a lifetime to gather 
up the facts for his philosophy of history. But those old 
materials are but as a single earners load compared with 
the mounds of long buried knowledge which must now 
be ransacked the monumental records of Egypt ; Assyria 
risen from the ashes which consumed Sardanapalus and 
Belshazzar ; the dim vestiges by lake and shore of the 
childhood of the western world ascending back to the times 
when the mammoth and the rhinoceros roamed the forests 
of Europe ; chief above all the stupendous stores of Oriental 
thought, the Vedas and their commentaries, the Zend Avesta, 
the Chinese sacred books, and that measureless bulk of 
Buddhist literature of which one section alone (the Tanjiir) 
fills 225 folios. To build all this into a complete system, first 
exercising the rigorous criticism required to divide the trust 
worthy from the doubtful, and this again from the utterly 
fallacious, would be the work, not of one scholar, but of a 
generation of scholars. Our fire is darkened for the moment 
by the very mass of new materials heaped upon it. It is no 
disrespect to Bunsen to say that, while he has displayed 
truly enormous learning in these volumes, I think the criti 
cal part of his work has been but imperfectly accomplished. 
I do not suppose that he, or those who most loved him, 
would claim for him the almost miraculous power attributed 
to him by one of his reviewers : 

" All languages, both dead and living, were as familiar to him as his 
own ; and all history, from the mystic annals of the Shepherd Kings 
of Egypt to the diplomatic transactions of his own day, lay spread out 
like a map before him." l 

But without such powers his scheme was well-nigh imprac 
ticable. To that majority of readers who are neither so 

1 Edinburgh Review, April, 1868, p. 469. 


ignorant as to be unaware of existing controversies nor 
so learned as to be able to decide them for themselves, there 
is much that is tantalizing in Bunsen s frequent practice 
of making dogmatic assertions on doubtful matters without 
giving us even a clue to his reasons for accepting one theory 
and rejecting another. We inevitably ask ourselves, Does 
not Lepsius, or Champollion, or Haug, or Burnouf (some 
scholar who has devoted his entire life to this one depart 
ment of history), give us a different chronology or ethnology, 
or a different exegesis of this passage, or a different value of 
that manuscript ? As Bunsen rarely cites his authorities, 
we are left too often with suspended judgment, till a sense 
of distrust, perhaps greater than the occasion needs, creeps 
on our minds. In a word, in these days of criticism we can 
accept no history as satisfactory which does not lay bare its 
critical basis. Before the pyramid can be built, the stone 
causeway must be firmly laid. 

In particular, I protest against Bunsen s neglect of 
criticism, or at least of explaining his principles of criticism, 
in his dealings with Jewish history. He approached this 
part of his task in the most liberal spirit, and was the last of 
all men to place himself in the attitude of those who cut the 
knot of all difficulties by an appeal to authority. In as 
serting, then, one fact to be true and discarding another 
recorded in the same book as false, he was surely bound to 
give us his reasons for such a course. But this is what he 
fails to do altogether. For example, he quotes at great 
length, and with some curious German subtleties of ex 
planation, the strange story (Exod. xxxiii.) of Moses being 
permitted to see the "back parts" of Jehovah. To this he 
prefixes the observation that the phrase of having " seen 
God" is never used elsewhere in Scripture except with 
reference to Elijah ; and that the conception of an actual 
sight of the back of a god-man was "as foreign to the Bible 


as repugnant to reason and good taste," the "purely spiritual 
interpretation of the Divine name" proving it so (vol. i. 
pp. 88-90). But on what authority, I ask, can Bunsen 
reject the detailed account in the 34th chapter of the same 
Book of Exodus, wherein it is described how the seventy 
elders "saw the God of Israel"; and again, "saw God, and 
did eat and drink " ; and yet again, how Ezekiel minutely 
describes, as Swelenborg might have done, " the likeness of 
the Man upon the throne" of the colour of amber, and with 
the likeness of fire, from his loins upwards and downwards ? 
(Ezek. i. 26, and viii.) Are we to take it for granted that 
Exodus xxxiii. is history, and Exodus xxiv. and Ezekiel i. 
and viii. fables ? In another place we are told, with a little 
more display of criticism, that the story of Abram (Gen. xv.) 
is no doubt mythical ; but that the story of Abraham is true ; 
and that the document, Genesis xiv., " added by an editor of 
the eighth century B.C., alone would suffice to prove that 
Abraham had a real historical existence, and was therefore (!) 
the great-grandfather of Joseph " (i. p. 83). After this, 
we are not surprised to hear that Moses is "an unquestion 
ably historical personage, both as regards the account of his 
origin and the events of his life." Both the origin and 
events of Moses life have, I think, been "questioned" pretty 
freely of late ! Again, as another example of dogmatism, I 
must cite Bunsen s assertion (p. 101) that "nothing can be 
more groundless" than the notion that the Jews derived their 
ideas of Satan, etc., from the Chaldees ; and his unbounded 
contempt for the supposition that the Jews would have 
accepted such doctrines from the heathen. But Maimonides 
himself avows they did so, and the Mischna says the same. 1 

Finally, to give entire utterance to my feelings, I must 
confess that although the style of writing in God in History 

1 " Dixit Rabbi Simeon Ben Lakis, Nomina angel orum ascenderunt in domum 
Israelis ex Babylone. " Rosch Haschanah (Tract of the Mischna). 


is by no means specially bad among German histories, and 
although Miss "Winkworth has shown herself as usual one 
of the very few who really possess the art of translation, yet 
I find the inevitable difficulties of dealing with such thoughts 
as constitute the substance of the book not a little enhanced 
by the mode of their expression. At the best, it must be 
owned, every German Tree of Knowledge bristles with a 
frightful array of thorns ! 

I shall now proceed to attempt a very brief sketch of the 
contents of these remarkable volumes. The two now trans 
lated 1 bring the subject up to the birth of Christ, and are 
divided into four books. The first book expounds the 
purpose of the whole and discusses the theories of the moral 
order of the world. The second book treats of the religious 
Consciousness of the Hebrews. The third is devoted to that 
of the Aryan race in Eastern Asia (the Zoroastrian, Yedic, 
Brahmin and Buddhist faiths), but includes preliminary 
chapters on the religion of the non-Aryan races, the 
Egyptians, Turanians and Chinese. The fourth book dis 
cusses the Aryans of Europe, the Greeks, Romans, and 

After a very remarkable and freely handled, but, in my 
judgment, unsatisfactory sketch of the history of the re 
ligious consciousness of the Hebrews, Bunsen proceeds to 
treat of that creed which the Jews consider as the second 
great heretical offshoot of their faith, Islam. When the old 
heathenisms of Arabia and Phoenicia had sunk under the 
influence of tyranny and of the sensuality which always 
follows tyranny, to the lowest corruption, and when Byzan 
tine Christendom, with its formalism and miserable hair- 

1 A third has been published since this Eeview was written. It is concerned 
with the " Religious Consciousness of the Christian Aryans," and a Summary of 



splitting theologic disputes, had failed utterly to convert the 
races of the south, then, says Bunsen, Mahomet stepped 
forth, " his whole soul glowing with the consciousness of 
God s revelation of himself in the heart, and uttering the 
prophetic words while he shattered the idols of Mecca : 

The light of Truth is come ; 
Vain lies are quenched. 

That sense of the Unity of God and of the bond existing 
between him and the individual human mind which Mahomet 
found in his own soul and recognized in Judaism and 
Christianity, is the basis of that universal empire of Islam 
which appeared to him to be the realization of God s king 
dom upon earth." But " he who takes the sword shall 
perish by the sword." Islam stiffened and hardened into 
formalism ; the wrathful spirit of vengeance and the degra 
dation of marriage destroyed its vigour. The " wings of 
man s upward flight were paralyzed." 

There is doubtless justice in this brief sketch of the story 
of Mahomet s religion, yet like nearly all others that I have 
seen (save a few of monstrous over-estimate), the justice seems 
but scantily meted out. No one disputes the immeasurable 
superiority of Christianity, such as ice have it, to Islam. But 
inasmuch as Christianity itself has failed to make the Greek, 
the Levantine, the Neapolitan, other than the spiritually 
barren people we find them, it may not unfairly be argued 
that had Islam fallen on the richer ground of the North, it 
would have borne better fruit than it has done, planted in 
Egyptian sands. We can easily see the defect of Mahomet s 
creed, and the indescribable spiritual poverty of the Koran 
as compared with other Eastern sacred books, not to speak of 
the Gospels. But had we lived in the ninth or tenth century 
it may be doubted whether English Protestant sympathies, 
such as they commonly exist amongst us, would not have 
turned far more to the reverent and tender piety and manly 


morality of the Saracens and Sicilian Arabs, than to the 
ascetic formalism, the idolatrous usages, and well-nigh poly 
theistic belief, of the monks and saints of Christendom. 

A striking remark, however, is made by Bunsen, ere he 
dismisses the subject of Mahometanism, to the purport that 
on coming in contact with the Iranian race in Persia the 
combination gave birth to Sufiism ; a philosophy deeply 
tinged with a pantheism altogether foreign to the sharply- 
cut monotheism of the Semites. 

The third book of God in History is devoted to a sketch 
of the religious consciousness of the Aryans of Eastern 
Asia prior to Christianity. Educated readers are aware that 
these Aryans of Eastern Asia are divided into the three great 
religions of Brahminism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism. 
Brahminism is usually understood by modern scholars to be 
the later development and corruption of the ancient Yedic 
faith. Baron Bunsen, however, insists that the distinction 
is rather a geographical than a chronological one, and that 
the region of the Indus still retains the nature- worship of 
Yedism, while Southern India and the banks of the Ganges 
have long fallen into Brahminism, " the offspring partly 
of the egotism of the priestly and regal castes, and partly 
of the enervating influences of the sensuality encouraged 
by the climate." Before engaging, however, in the 
analysis of the great creeds of the Aryans, Bunsen un 
dertakes a sketch of what he calls, in German phrase, 
" The vestibule of the Aryan religious consciousness ; " 
in plain English the religions which bordered on the Aryan 
countries, namely, those of Egypt, China, and the tribes 
of Tartary. Here, again, we are met by that dogmatism 
whose use by Bunsen I have already lamented. I cannot 
think that any scholar has a right in the present stage of 
critical and philological research to make the dogmatic asser- 


tion, that " Zoroaster entered on his career about B.C. 3000 " 
(p. 206) ; that " with the character of Abraham we step at 
once into the full day-light of the more recent history of the 
human mind " (p. 221), and that " in Egypt alone has a 
branch of the West Asiatic stock, viz., the historical Semites, 
taken root in very early times and put forth an immortal 

growth of mixed Asiatic and African origin The 

Egyptians are the Hamites of the Bible, and they alone." 
(p. 223.) The tone of true scholarship regarding points so 
disputed and so disputable, is surely very different from this. 
Fortunately, the observations which follow on Egyptian re 
ligion do not much depend for value on either chronology 
or ethnology, but are drawn chiefly from the monuments 
whose relative age is tolerably certain. 

"The centre," says Bunsen, "of the consciousness which 
the Egyptians possessed of God s agency in our history, is 
the Osiris-worship, the oldest and most sacred portion of 
their religion. Osiris is the Lord, the judge of men after 
death." Bunsen does not add what strikes me as the most 
interesting point, that Osiris was the essential personification 
of Divine goodness. The familiar porcelain images of him 
found in every tomb, and the amulets representing his all- 
seeing beneficent eye, are, to my thinking, very touching 
relics of human love and trust. 

Next in importance to the belief in Osiris stands the 
Egyptian doctrine of metempsychosis, of which Bunsen 
beautifully says : 

It involves the recognition that there is a solution of the enigma 
of existence, which is not to be found in the term of a single life on 
earth, and yet which we are impelled to seek after in order to explain 
this life. All guilt must be expiated ; but the final issue, though 
reached only after the lapse of unnumbered ages, will be the triumph 
of the Good, the general reconciliation, and a life in God will be the 
eternal heritage of the soul. 

Grotesque as may seem to us the form such a faith has 


taken in the notion of the transmigration of souls into animal 
forms, it may be questioned whether, on the whole, Christen 
dom has gained much by substituting the terrors of an 
eternity of torture in a fiery cave, for a term of expiation in 
the body of a beast. Who can even say that we are right in 
reading the hieroglyph of the soul of a sensualist turned 
into the shape of a swine (to be seen on the splendid Soane 
sarcophagus, and on many other monuments), as anything 
beside a hieroglyph or mere emblem of a retribution which 
may have been understood in a purely spiritual sense ? 
If we wished to express the truth that by indulging in 
bestial vice man becomes bestial, how better could we ex 
press it in a picture than by drawing a man turned into a 
disgusting brute ? 

The religious history of Egypt is full both of encourage 
ment and of warning. The earnestness, nay, rather the vehe 
mence of the national faith in Immortality, several thousand 
years before Christianity is supposed to have afforded the 
first certainty thereof, is one of the most important facts 
of history. The presence of such faith in three civilizations 
divided so widely as those of the Egyptians, the Brahmins, 
and the Druids, is the strongest testimony conceivable to the 
universality of the intuition written on the heart of man by 
that Hand which writes no falsehoods. Further, the ethical 
form so clearly assumed by this belief among the Egyptians, 
is also a testimony to the depth of the human consciousness 
of moral good and ill-desert. But again, on the other hand, 
while the religion of Egypt teaches us lessons so encouraging 
(on which I observe with some surprise that our author has 
not insisted), it also bears fearful testimony to the possibility 
of petrifying a creed, till it becomes a stone closing the door 
of a nation s sepulchre. With such noble beliefs as those in 
Osiris and in immortal life, with the enormous power which 
must have been needed to build the temples and pyramids 


of Egypt, the established religion of the land yet sanctioned 
such miserable idolatries as the worship of animals ; and 
while its " Prayer Book of the Dead " held up a noble code 
of morals for long succeeding generations, it can hardly be 
doubted that it supported and consolidated a tyranny, lay 
and ecclesiastic, of unsurpassed severity. The pyramids are 
said to have been erected by the despotic kings, for the 
purpose of safely preserving their own corpses from the just 
indignation of their subjects, by whom the sentence of the 
official Judges of the Dead might be reversed, and the 
mummies so far destroyed as (according to the Egyptian 
creed) to prevent their sharing the resurrection. If this be 
so, the greatest monuments of oppression which burden the 
earth, have owed their existence to the double influence of a 
religious dogma, and to the fear of the tyrant for the very 
victims of his tyranny." l 

It has been held by some Egyptologers, of whose theory 
Bunsen makes no mention, that the numerous deities of the 
Egyptian pantheon were only deified attributes of the One 
God ; and that while the ignorant populace were left to 
believe that they were separate beings, the priesthood and 
educated classes perfectly well understood that A.mun, the 
King, and Neph, the Divine Spirit, and Phthah, the Creative 
Power, and Kliem, the Reproductive Power, and Thoth, the 
Divine Intellect, and Osiris, the Goodness of God, were all 
one and the same Being ; the powers of nature, the Sun, 
Day and Night, Matter, the maternal principle, and also 
Moral Ideas, like Truth and Justice, having also male and 
female personifications. The tutelary triads of the various 
Nomes of Egypt seem to lend some countenance to this theory, 
in so far that we can explain them easily as selected attri- 

1 The care taken to make the approach to the sepulchral chambers as difficult 
and obscure as possible of course countenances this theory. Yet a secret known 
to the thousands who built the pyramids must have been a very open secret 


butes, united at will as objects of special worship, and under 
stood to form in each case a Unity ; whereas, on the hypothesis 
of their being separate independent personalities such arbi 
trary conjunctions are inexplicable. 1 If, in the opinion of com 
petent judges, the theory above mentioned should hereafter be 
accepted, should we not obtain a singular glimpse into the 
mystery of the connexion between Mosaism and the Egyptian 
creed? May it not be believed that Moses, "learned in 
all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and fired at once with 
loyalty to the God whose unity he had been taught, and 
with indignation for the oppression of the masses of his 
countrymen, resolved to break both the chains of priestly 
and political tyranny, and by boldly preaching to the popu 
lace the secret of the hierarchy, to found a commonwealth 
on the sublime lesson, " Hear, Israel, the Lord your 
God is one Lord"? Might not this have been the "Thus 
saith the Lord," which he heard in his heart in his desert 
musings, and by whose brave announcement he became one 
of the arch-prophets of the world ? 

Passing from Egypt, Bunsen bestows a short chapter on 
the religious consciousness of the Turanian race ; that is, of 
those vast tribes which occupy Central and Northern Asia, 
and include, according to modern ethnology, the Tartars, 
Finns, Turks, and Magyars. The prevailing characteristic 
of this race, according to Bunsen, is the propensity to 
magic or Shamanism. The meaning of this phrase needs 

Religion in its noblest form belongs to the noblest parts 
of our nature. It is ethical, as the outcome and crown of 
our moral nature. It is intellectual, as the highest result 

1 Sir G. Wilkinson (Egypt, 2nd series) describes and copies a stone on -which 
is inscribed, " One Bait, one Athor, and one Akori. Hail, Father of the World. 
Hail, triformous God." On the obverse are two seated Egyptian figures with 
something like a dove above them. 


of our reason. It is affectional, as the last great aim and 
perfecting of love. But beside these noble inlets of religion 
to the soul, there are as the Revivalists have taught us 
even in our own land too well hideous possibilities of at 
taching religious ideas and sentiments in most unhallowed 
connexion with lower and more material parts of our com 
plex frame, with the mere nervous system and such brain 
excitement as may be created by sounds, intoxicating 
fumes or drinks, or, yet more effectually, by that concen 
tration of the mind on one idea which produces hypnotism 
and hysteria. He who has seen the dancing dervishes 
performing their frantic rites, rotating (as the writer has 
beheld one of them) for twenty consecutive minutes without 
pause, till he falls pale and giddy to the ground, while his 
companions bow and shout in chorus, with wild eyes and 
dishevelled hair, like hungry wild beasts in a cage ; he only 
who has seen this deplorable sight, or that of the Jumpers of 
Wales, or Peculiar People of England, leaping and screaming 
" Glory I" can realize the degradation to which worship can 
fall when the excitement, which ought to descend from above, 
is obtained from stimulants from below. The Turanian race, 
according to Bunsen, have for their peculiar character a pro 
pensity to the use of all such spiritual trickeries. Perhaps 
the case might be more hopefully described by saying that 
in the simple pastoral and secluded life common to most of 
these tribes, the vividness of religious faith has the tendency, 
common among mountaineers, to reverie and to visionary 
absorption. In the ignorance of a Tartar tent, a resort to 
magic arts to produce ecstatic raptures would seem easily 
explicable. The main point of interest is the strength of 
belief in an invisible world, and the yearning for more 
intimate connexion with it, thus manifested in races whose 
lives might have seemed a mere process of browsing and 
ruminating, like those of their own flocks and herds. 


Chinese religion has long been the despair of theologians. 
A child begins by loving and obeying its human parents, 
and proceeds in healthy growth of heart and soul to the 
love of the Father of AIL But the Chinese, like stunted 
children, or human beings destined to eternal infancy, glued 
in the bud in piteous failure of natural blossoming, have 
stopped at the point of filial love and piety. Their morality 
is summed up in obedience to their parents while living : l 
their religion, in the worship of them when dead. 

Yet the Chinese have not been without a few great souls 
who have seen a glimmering, through the gloom, of rays 
of pure light. Last and greatest, but least familiarly known 
to us in Europe, was Tshu-hi, whose works, written in the 
thirteenth century of our era, have recently been translated. 
From among them, Bunsen has quoted these marvellous pass 
ages : 

There is an Essence indeterminate, which existed before heaven 
and earth. Oh, how silent is it ! It alone subsists without changes ; it 
is everywhere. Thou mayst call it the Mother of the Universe. I 
know not how to name it. I call it Tao (the Way). I call it the 
Great, the Vanishing, the Distant, and yet again the Approaching. 
Man copies the Earth, Earth Heaven, Heaven Tao, and Tao its own 
nature, . . . Tao loves and nourishes all beings, and does not con 
sider himself as their Lord ; he is always without desire, wherefore he 
may be called Little. All beings owe subjection to him, and he does 
not consider himself as their Lord, wherefore he may be called Great. 

Is not this last mysterious doctrine of the self- abnegation 
of God akin to the noble thought that God s whole life of 
ineffable beatitude is a Giving-forth, a bestowal of good, 
without one personal desire ; an absolute Love in which 
selfishness has no place ; and that all the god-like in man 
is thus to live outside of himself in love, and all the devil- 

1 Mencius (Meng-Zo), author of the 4th canonical book of the Chinese, very 
neatly resolves all duty into filial piety, by laying it down tbat children show 
want of duty to their parents by the five capital sins of Sloth, Gambling, Selfish 
ness, Sensuality, and Quarrelling. 


like to live in himself in selfishness? Eternal life is the 
life of love. Eternal death (were it possible for God s child) 
would he the final extinction of love, in absolute selfishness. 
And again Tshu-hi says : 

No one has lent to Tao his dignity, nor to Virtue its nobleness ; 
these qualities they possess eternally in themselves. The "Way pro 
duces beings, sustains and preserves them. He brings them forth and 
does not make them his own ; he governs them and suffers them to 
be free. That is the depth of Virtue. 

Bunsen s hopes expressed at the close of this chapter that 
the rebellion of the Tae-pings was a real great Christian 
reformation, have, alas, proved delusive, and only show the 
warmth of enthusiasm with which he greeted all that bore 
semblance of progress in the world. 

After this brief survey of Egypt, Turan, and China, 
Bunsen proceeds to consider the main stream of human 
thought ; the religious consciousness of the great Aryan 
race, of which Indians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Teutons, 
and Celts are the branches. First among these, he con 
siders the Zoroastrian Bactrians, and gives to Zoroaster, 
with absolute decision, an antiquity "certainly not later 
than towards B.C. 2500" a date which no other scholar 
would, I believe, be inclined to state equally dogmatically. 
The great work of Zoroaster in giving to the Yedic nature- 
worship a distinctly ethical character, Bunsen thoroughly 
believes, and considers the famous Inaugural Speech of 
Zoroaster (Gatha Ahunavaiti, Yasna 30, already quoted, ante, 
p. 153) as the record, of it : 

The remaining Gathas, whether they proceed from Zoroaster himself, 
or only bear the mint mark of his mind, all exhibit similar character 
istics. "We do not discover Zoroaster to be a man exercising magical 
powers or exalting himself above humanity. On the contrary he is a 
seer who announces the Divine will as unmistakably authenticated by 
the voice within him. 



Zoroastrianism, according to Bunsen, spread from Bactria 
to Media, and from Media to Persia, where its peculiar 
insistance on the virtue of Truth (Ahriman being always 
identified as the Lying Spirit) gave to the whole Persian 
people the character for veracity, so much marvelled at by 
the mendacious Greeks. The withering tyranny of the 
successors of Cyrus and the admixture of the Chaldee philo 
sophy in Babylon were the causes, as Bunsen supposes, 
of such corruption as Zoroastrianism underwent. " Under 
such a despotism," he says, " how is it possible for a nation 
really to believe that the good, the wise, the true, does 
ultimately triumph upon earth ? " This is a frequently 
recurring idea throughout the pages of God in History, 
that political freedom, or at the least, a government 
free from gross injustice, is indispensable to the mainte 
nance of wide- spread faith in the eternal justice above, 
Nevertheless, the creed of Zoroaster is to this hour a 
nobly moral faith, and one by no means intellectually 

From the Iranian branch of the great Aryan family, by 
whom the religion of Zoroaster was adopted, our author 
turns to the emigrants who before Zoroaster s age had 
wandered to the banks of the Indus, and there formed the 
most ancient detachment (so to speak) of the race, the 
Indian Aryans. Here was the land of the Yedas, the oldest 
of human books, in whose Sanskrit words we still trace the 
brotherhood which unites us Anglo-Saxons with that re 
motest household of our common Aryan race. Well may 
Bunsen say : 

The sacred books of the Indian Aryans touch us much more nearly 
in many respects than the records of the primeval epoch of the 
Hebrews, for in the former we see and feel the brotherhood of race ; 
but on the other hand they are incomparably more a sealed book to 


us than the sacred scriptures of the Jews. We stand in presence -of 
a veiled life ; in a similar position to that which we should occupy 
with regard to the unfolding of the Hebrew mind from the age- of 
Abraham to that of Jeremiah, if we possessed nothing but the Book: 
of Psalms. 1 

Having discussed the topic of Yedic literature elsewhere,- 
I shall here pass over the further observations of Bunseai 
regarding it. 

After a portion of the Aryan race had migrated^ from:/ 
the Indus to the Ganges, the Yedic religion, according; to 
Bunsen, transformed itself into Brahminism, "ratller the- 
contrary than the continuation of the Yedic religious- con 
sciousness." Here the old nature-gods Yaruna (Ouranos,. 
the sky), Agni (Ignis, fire), and the rest, sunk into- insig 
nificance before metaphysical conceptions of a different order. 
The Trimurti of Brahma, Yishnu, and Seeva (Creator, Re 
storer, and Destroyer) about whom, as Bunsen says, "so 
many fantastical, not to say nonsensical, systems- have been. 
built up" now first appeared, and received in time the 
highest rank among the deities. The poets and singers. 
who had celebrated the Yedic sacrifices became- an heredi 
tary caste of priests ; the whole cruel and monstrous system 
of Brahininism followed ; and, meanwhile, the keen Aryan 
intellect occupied itself in the construction of such mental 
air-castles as the Sankhya and Yedanta philosophies. Thus, 
while the Iranian branch of the race, guided by the strong 
spirit of Zoroaster, seized, once for all, on the ethical side 
of religion, and developed a faith which, after three millen 
niums, is still the rational and moral creed of the Parsees, 
the Indian branch, following the intellectual rather than the 
ethical track, lost itself in a double ruin. On one side was 
a sacerdotal tyranny and a miserable idolatry. On the other 
were two systems of philosophy, the one trembling between 

1 Page 298. 


pantheism and atheism, the other a nihilism, which left its 
disciples for consolation such thoughts as these : 

A drop that trembles on the lotus-leaf, 

Such is this life, so soon dispelled, so brief; 

The eight great mountains, and the seven seas, 

The sun, the gods who sit and rule o er these, 

Thou, I, the universe, must pass away : 

Time conquers all ; why care for what must pass away ? 

Of course, it is not to be imagined that Brahminism, 
during its long growth of three millenniums, has produced 
no better fruit than these apples of Sodom. The great 
Brahmin poems of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, 
above all the code of Menu, which has been the Leviticus 
and the Deuteronomy of the Hindoo nation for so many 
ages, all testify to a religious and still more clearly to a 
moral consciousness, never lost in the sands of polytheism, 
nor absorbed in the formalism and asceticism of the priestly 

I cannot quit this portion of my subject without express 
ing my regret that Bunsen should have died before the 
great reformation of the Brahmo Somaj assumed noticeable 
proportions in India. With how much pleasure would he, 
who was hopeful even of the results of the fanatical Tae-ping 
insurrection, have heralded the rise of a truly pure Theism, 
whose watchwords are the absolute unity and spirituality 
of God, the abolition of caste, and the elevation and instruc 
tion of woman ! The leligious consciousness of the Indian 
Aryans has indeed vindicated itself at last ; and when 
Rammohun Roy published his book of extracts from the 
Yedas as the text-book of his infant church, he reunited 
the threads of three thousand years of spiritual history. 
The Yedic hymn has passed naturally into the Brahmo s 
prayer, as the worship of the fathers into that of the 


What is Buddhism ? The researches of a dozen great 
scholars have yet left us very little able to decide the 
question. Bunsen says frankly : 

Our own conception of Buddha is diametrically opposed to that of 
Burnouf and all his successors (with the exception of Mohl, Obry, and 
Dancker) in so far that according to them the founder of the most 
widely diffused creed on the face of the earth, a creed which has intro 
duced or revived civilization amongst all these millions, was a teacher 
of atheism and materialism. For so we must denominate a system 
which should teach that there is absolutely nothing but non-existence, 
therefore in no sense a God ; that annihilation is the highest happiness 
the soul can strive after, and that it is the highest glory of the great 
saint to have taught the way thereunto. If this were so, then Buddha 
would at least lie beyond the scope of our present survey. For there is 
no more utter denial of a Divine order of the world than the asssumption 
that existence is nothing but a curse, (vol. i. p. 345). l 

The fourth book of God in History is devoted to a study 
of the religious consciousness of the Aryan race in Europe, 
namely, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Teutons. The 
elaborate sketches of Greek religious life, including the 
earlier nature-worship, and that more ethical type which 
ever succeeds it ; the Greek epos and drama ; Greek archi 
tecture 2 and sculpture ; fill some of the best chapters in the 
work, and are among the finest in recent criticism. Drawing 
to his conclusion, after setting forth how much of the truly 
moral, the truly religious, abode ever in the Greek conscious 
ness, he says : 

The Pantheon of the Greeks consisted exclusively of divinities of the 
mind, of Ideals of Humanity, and had its unity in Zeus, a conception 
which, through Homer and the other Hellenic poets, exerted a guiding 
influence, of which even the masses were sensible. For Zeus was not 
a national god, but was designated even so early as the age of Homer, 

1 The correctness of this view of Buddhism is discussed iu the next Essay. 

2 Is it a slip of the pen by which, p. 262, vol. ix., he speaks of Phidias as 
architect as well as sculptor of the Parthenon ? Is there any doubt of the work 
of Ictinus ? 


the "Father of gods and men." It now no longer occurs to any one to 
deny the mischief of that splitting-up of the consciousness of God, 
which was caused by a plurality of gods, but we must not forget that 
this polytheism had grown up out of the, commingling of the tribes. 
As little will any one who has a voice in the European commonwealth 
of mind be disposed to deny the weakening of the ethical religious 
consciousness that resulted from the overweening concentration of the 
mind upon knowledge, or from the idolatry of beauty, involving as it 
did, a severance of the beautiful and the true from the good. But those 
alone have a right to cast their stone at the Greeks who know how to 
appreciate the divinity residing in beauty, and who do not refuse to 
see the godlike in knowledge. ... It is very customary to place the 
distinguishing characteristic of Hellenism, in an absence of all earnest 
worship of God and of religious life in general. ,We are prepared to 
maintain, on the contrary, that the whole life of classical antiquity, 
especially that of the Hellenes, shows itself far more inter-penetrated 
with prayer and religious feeling than does that of the modern Christian 
world. 1 

My readers will probably be a little startled at the last 
challenge, but the whole chapter deserves careful consider 
ation ere we fall back on our accustomed commonplaces about 
Greek irreligion. Among other remarks, and as an instance 
of the curious side lights with which the book abounds, 
I may quote the observation in the preceding volume, that 
while with the Hebrews the "soul" was synonymous with 
" self," with the Greeks the body was the " self," and the 
soul a separate entity. The Hebrew patriarch could talk 
even of savoury meat as a thing his " soul " loved. The 
Greek poet (Iliad i.) spoke of the wrath of Achilles 

Which many thousand souls of the sons of the heroes 
Sent down to hell ; but stretched themselves on the earth 
A prey to the ravening dogs. 

Bunsen might have added, that such an identification 
of "soul" and "self" has never yet taken place amongst 
ourselves. After so many centuries of Christianity we yet 

1 Vol. ii. p. 347. 


habitually say, when a ship has foundered with her crew, 
that " every soul on board perished " ; albeit, according to 
our professed belief, and even the belief of our Yiking fore 
fathers, the souls of the drowned were the only things 
which did not "perish" in the wreck. 

The Romans, in the opinion of Bunsen, as of other 
scholars, had for the leading ideas of their national life the 
notion of Law, and of their own rightful sway over all 
nations. Sacrifices and prayer were to them the business of 
the small order of priests ; forms highly to be respected and 
in no wise to be trangressed by a worthy citizen, but yet 
having nothing to do with a man s heart or inner life. 
Yirgil summed up the Roman ideal when he wrote : 

Others, belike with happier grace, 

From bronze or stone shall call the face, 

Plead doubtful causes, map the skies, 

And tell when planets set or rise ; 

But ROMAN ! thou, do thou control 

The nations far and wide ; 

Be this thy genius to impose 

The rule of peace on vanquished foes, 

Show pity to the humblest soul, 

And crush the sons of pride. jffineid, vi. 

The unity of civilized nations in one empire, the supremacy 
of Justice and of that Jurisprudence which Bunsen calls the 
Prose of Justice ; such was the great Roman Thought 
bequeathed to the world. 

Finally we reach the Teuton and Gothic race, the furthest 
offshoot of the Aryan family, the very antitypes and yet the 
brothers in blood and language of the Aryans who, on the 
banks of the Ganges, transformed into Brahminism the old 
Yedic faith whose relics are imbedded in the wild mythology 
of Scandinavia. Fidelity, conjugal love, loyalty, courage, 


reverence for the nobler attributes of women, belief in 
eternal justice, in expiation and restoration ; these were the 
characteristics which, following Tacitus, and wringing out 
the spirit of Eddas and Sagas, may be attributed to the 
great northern race even from heathen times. Have we here 
the secret why the religious consciousness of the Teuton 
less intellectually subtle than the Brahmin, less beautiful in 
,its forms than the Greek is yet the one which has carried 
farthest in advance the torch of Divine light in the progress 
of mankind ? Is not, after all, loyalty, the free Allegiance 
of the soul to its rightful LORD, the very highest type of 
religion ? Awe, reverence, intellectual contemplation, sym 
pathy with the beautiful, submission to irresistible decrees, 
stern adherence to external law all these sides of religious 
consciousness, the inheritance of Egyptian, Persian, Hindoo, 
Greek, Moslem, and Roman, are good and true in their 
degree. But the highest Consciousness of all is not these, 
but the inward moral Allegiance of Love. 

Marcus Aurelius began his Meditations by thankfully 
attributing his acquirements and advantages each to his 
parents or his tutors ; his placid temper to his grandsire 
Yerus, his piety to his mother Lucilla, his love of justice to 
Severus. And thus, perhaps, may mankind hereafter trace 
back each gift to one of its ancestry of nations, or to one of 
its great teachers. To the cradle of the future Lord of the 
world, the Kings both of the East and of the West will 
bring their gold, their frankincense, and myrrh. From the 
Jew he will inherit his Faith, from the Roman his Law, 
from the Greek his Art. Nay, many another heirloom will 
descend to him, its origin perchance forgotten in the night 
of time ; many a thought and many a sentiment from far-off 
ancestors in the old Aryan Home, and Semite brothers under 
Chaldsean skies, and Norsemen from their icy seas storming 
forth to conquer the world. In the great family of nations 


perchance, when we come to know it better, we shall find 
there has been no insignificant or ungifted one ; nay, that 
as in the fairy lore of our Teuton fathers, it is often the 
humblest, the dwarf, the disinherited, who has been chief of 
all and the saviour of his brethren. When Cherillus, de 
scribing the muster-roll of the vast army of Xerxes, named 
as last and meanest, " a people who dwelt in the Solymean 
mountains, with sooty heads and faces like horse- heads smoke- 
dried," 1 how little he could foresee that from that despicable 
race and those barren Solymean hills should come a Conqueror 
to whose Army of Martyrs the mighty host of Xerxes should 
be an insignificant troop ! " "What perishes/ says Bunsen, 
" in the great struggle which throbs through all history is 
the limitation of the individual and the limitation of the 
nation." The positive survives, the negation ceases. The 
tide of religious consciousness perpetually rises, not indeed 
by one continuous stream of equal advance, but in successive 
waves, each of which having contributed to the flow, subsides 
again and is lost. We need not despair, although again and 
again we read of one faith after another "As time went 
on, it lost its early strength and became blended with 
errors." The procession of the ages by which our race 
approaches the altar of Divine wisdom is like no Phidian 
dream of stately forms of light-bearers and flower-bearers 
marching calmly in the long line of Time. Rather is it like 
the passage of some royal summons in feudal days of old, 
when each messenger bore it on as fast and far as life and 
strength allowed, then gave it to another s hands, and him 
self laid down to die. Are not the days of a nation 
numbered, is not its true life over, when it learns no new 
truth and turns the truth it has once learned to error ? 

1 Josephus, Contra Apion. i. 22. 



IN the preface to this book the author makes the following 
observation : 

There is to my mind no subject more absorbing than the tracing the 
origin and first growth of human thought ; not theoretically or in 
accordance with the Hegelian laws of thought, or the Comtian epochs, 
but historically and like an Indian trapper, spying for every footprint, 
every layer, every broken blade that might tell and testify of the former 
presence of man in his early wanderings and searchings after light and 

Few readers, I apprehend, possessed of the genuine his 
toric spirit, will hesitate to agree cordially with this senti 
ment, and to rank the religious development of nations in 
which such " searchings after light and truth " result, as 
the most noteworthy element of their civilization. Nor is 
the interest of the subject exhausted when we have made it 
a foremost branch of historical inquiry. The science of 
Comparative Theology, to be built up at last of the materials 
furnished by such researches will, we are assured, prove as 
valuable in elucidating the dark problems of the human 
mind as the science of Comparative Physiology has been in 
throwing light on those of the body. And as out of the 
study of the lower animals the physiologist ascends step by 
step from simpler to more complex forms of life, and traces 

1 Chips from a German Workshop. By Max Miiller. Two vols., 8vo. 1868. 


his way from organs rudimentary in beast and insect up to 
the human hand and brain ; so the theologian may hereafter 
trace through the humbler forms of fetichism and poly 
theism, and the imperfections of Yedic and Judaic religions, 
the prophecy and embryo of that more perfect faith, in 
whose symmetric development all the incomplete and rudi 
mentary types of the past will become explicable. Professor 
Miiller s delightful volumes treat of many subjects beside 
those immediately connected with theology, his own special 
science of Language having of course a prominent place. 
The interest of the work centres, however, so much in the 
dissertations on the various sacred books and on mythology 
in general, that I shall be doing it little injustice in confining 
my review to the subjects so suggested. The philology of 
the learned Professor is entirely beyond my criticism, and 
the minor topics dealt with in his second volume would 
occupy too much space if even very briefly noticed. 

The value of comparative theology becomes constantly 
more apparent as we descend from a mere superficial view 
of the various religions of the world, to a deeper analysis 
of the nature of human faith and worship. Religious ideas 
(it is often forgotten) are not simple, but complex. Each 
has two factors ; first, the feelings of dependence, allegiance, 
love, to some dimly discerned Power above, which we sum 
up under the name of the " Religious Sentiment " ; second, 
the intellectual work which happens to have been done at 
any given time or place, in transmuting these Sentiments 
into Thoughts ; or, in other words, in constructing a theology. 
No religious Ideas could exist were there no religious Senti 
ments behind them, and no religious ideas do practically 
exist till a certain process of crystallization has been applied 
to such sentiments. 

The first factor is constant so far as that what ever has been 


the sentiment of one age is not lost, but developed and en 
nobled in subsequent generations. As the Moral Sense first 
dimly dawns in the mind of the savage, and then grows into 
a definite, though imperfect, sense of Justice ; and later on 
slowly extends, step by step, to the sense of Truth, Purity, 
and Love ; so the Religious Sentiment, which is in a measure 
the reflex of the Moral Sense, developes slowly also. 

The second factor of religious ideas is, from the nature 
of the case, vafiable and incessantly changing with every 
advance of knowledge and every process of reflection. It is 
itself compounded of two variable elements ; namely, first, 
the original thought of the individual, which may be almost 
nil, or may be vast enough to create a whole new creed ; 
secondly, of the traditional thought which he has derived 
from teachers and books, and this, again, of course may be 
great or small a mental ancestry stretching through a 
princely line of saints and sages, or the low brief pedigree 
of a barbarian s legends. Here the study of comparative 
theology is of incalculable value, enabling the student to 
inherit, not only the traditions of his direct line of teachers, 
but of all past generations. The different Ideas into which 
the same Sentiment has been translated in varied lands and 
ages are to the last degree instructive, and corrective of our 
haste and dogmatism ; nor can a man fairly estimate the 
worth of any familiar notion till he has seen and weighed 
its antagonist idea. Nay, not only in an intellectual, but 
a moral sense, the knowledge of such various creeds is 
valuable. Religion never comes to us in greater majesty 
than when " a cloud of witnesses " proclaims its truth. 
Never do moral lessons touch us more nearly, never do ex 
pressions of trust in God, or hope of immortality, carry with 
them such fresh strength as when they are borne to us from 
far-off ages and distant lands, and we know they have come 
from the lips of men who never spoke our speech nor learned 


our lessons, and whose whole lives were passed under con 
ditions utterly foreign to all our traditions. To hold by the 
full cord of all the faith of all the ages, is assuredly far more 
secure than to cling by a single thread, even if that thread 
be the golden strand of Christianity. 

Each man s religion, observes Professor Muller, is to him 
unique. It is his native language, the mother- tongue of his 
soul ; none other may bear any comparison with it so far as 
he is concerned. We might carry the simile further, and 
say that, like the old pedants who held that the languages 
of barbarians were not proper languages at all, but had only 
the sense of the lowings and bleatings of kine and sheep, so 
bigots even now talk as if the vast religions of the ancient 
world and of the East were not worthy to be called religions, 
and had in them no meaning and no sanctity. The thesis 
of half the later apologists of Christianity (down to the 
author of Christ and other Masters, well reviewed in these 
volumes 1 ) might be described somewhat in thiswise: "Given, 
a multitude of creeds having innumerable parallels, in doc 
trine, myth, rite and precept, with our own. Prove that 
everything in them is absurd and wicked, and everything in 
our own faith credible and holy." 

It was not so in earlier times. The Apostles and Fathers 
were ready to acknowledge the " light which lighteth every 
man that cometh into the world," wherever they beheld 
a scintillation of it, whether in poems like that of Aratus, 
or in that philosophy " by which," as Clemens A lexandrinus 
said, "the Almighty is glorified among the Greeks." St. 
Chrysostom s argument (Homil. 12) for the divine inspi 
ration of conscience as the source from whence heathen 
legislators drew their laws, reads like a piece of modern 
free-thinking : 

For it cannot be said they held communication with Moses, or that 
1 Vol. i. p. 50. 


they heard the prophets. How could they when they were Gentiles ? 
It is evident it was from the very law which God placed in man when 
he formed him. 

But as the Church lost its primitive vigour of faith, which 
sufficed to itself without requiring the denial of all divine 
element in other creeds, the narrower, poorer faith of later 
ages needed to put forth a different claim : Christianity was 
declared to be not only the best, but the only religion ; 
all others were devil-worship and delusion. No modern 
Paul would have preached from the text of the altar of the 
Unknown God. He would have called it an altar of Satan. 
One faith only could be admitted to be unmingled truth, 
and for its sake, and expressly to distinguish it from all 
others, it was affirmed that the long cycle of Biblical 
miracles had been wrought. All other creeds were mere 
jumbles of unredeemable error, and their pretended wonders 
mere delusions and impostures. Penetrated with notions 
like these, our missionaries went forth to attack the giant 
religions of the East with the courage of David against 
the Philistine. But their Bibles, flung fearlessly at those 
massive fronts, have somehow hitherto failed to slay the 
enemy, or even to stun him ; and we must wait for his 
overthrow till a different order of attack be inaugurated. 

In just the opposite spirit from this narrow and bigoted 
one does Professor Miiller address himself to the task of 
examining the religions of the heathen world. Had his 
book no other merit, the preface alone, in which the true 
method of such inquiry is vindicated, possesses a value we 
shall not readily over-estimate. " Every religion/ he says, 
"even the most imperfect and degraded, has something 
that ought to be sacred to us, for there is in all religions 
a secret yearning after the true though unknown God." 
Truly this is the spirit, not only of a philosopher, but of 
a pious man. Strange is it, as all who have travelled 


beyond the precincts of Christendom can tell, to note with 
what scorn, surpassing mere irreverence, Christians com 
monly enter the mosques and temples of other creeds, and 
standing among crowds of prostrate worshippers move and 
speak, as if purposely to display their contempt. Nay, in 
Christendom itself to watch a Protestant in a Romish church, 
or an Anglican in a Dissenting chapel, is often to see em 
bodied in looks and manner the feelings not of sympathy 
or community in the eternal human sentiments of religious 
love and hope, not even of pity for supposed fatal and soul- 
destroying error ; but of inhuman ridicule and disgust. Not 
one man in a thousand enters the temple of a creed in which 
he does not believe, with any reverence or even any interest 
beyond vulgar curiosity. But that man sees what others 
wholly miss ; even the essential meaning of the cultus. Just 
so will those few who, like Miiller, enter the vast fane of 
Yedic or Zoroastrian faith, not rudely or contemptuously, 
but with respectful sympathy, find therein a purpose which 
for ever escapes the mere profane inquirer. 

The sources of knowledge concerning existing heathen 
religions are of very various value. The obvious results of 
a creed on the character and manners of the nation which 
adopts it have always afforded a favourite " short method 
with the Pagans," whereby it was easy to demonstrate that 
all such creeds could contain nothing good since so little 
good came from them. But to argue back from the practice 
to the theory of any religion would, I fear, prove an 
unsatisfactory mode of procedure, even if applied to our 
own. The " intelligent foreigner," after perusing our police 
reports, examining the processes of our traffic, or merely 
perambulating the streets of London or Paris, before or 
after dark, would hardly construct the Sermon on the 
Mount as the source to which all he beheld plainly pointed 
as authority. Professor Miiller himself mentions the despair 


of a poor Hindoo convert, who somehow managed to reach 
England still possessed of the simple faith, that Evangelical 
piety filled all our hearts and Evangelical morality guided 
the greater part of our actions. To expect that far less pure 
and noble creeds should exercise more perfect influence, and 
that Confucian wisdom should reign in Pekin, Brahmin 
devotion at Benares, and Zoroastrian morality among the 
Parsees at Bombay, is paying, to say the least, a bad com 
pliment to Christianity. 

A second source of knowledge of heathen creeds is derived 
from the oral teaching of living priests ; the doctrines they 
promulgate concerning God and other beings of the invisible 
world ; their cosmogony, ethics and ceremonial laws, and 
their lessons concerning a future state. This oral teaching is 
of course a most important element in forming our estimate 
of each creed, and has hitherto been almost our "sole guide 
to the great religions of the East. It is, however, obviously 
liable to lead us into many mistakes. In the first place 
we derive from it at best only an idea of the religion in 
its present shape, which often (as in the case of Brahminism) 
is one of great degeneracy. Secondly, such teachings as 
Eastern priesthoods now afford shade off always into my 
thologies, more or less puerile, and bearing to religion no 
more relation than the Legends of the Saints do to Christ 
ianity. To say what is the creed itself and what is mere 
hagiology and fable is impossible, unless we go beyond the 
living priests to some higher authority. Again, each great 
creed has undergone enormous modifications. Even what 
must be termed its theology has changed in the course of 
ages, and differs, altogether, in different parts of the wide 
empire over which it stretches. The Trimurti, for instance, 
of Brahma, Yishnu, and Seeva, with all their myths of 
avatars, and the pantheon of subordinate gods, is a com 
paratively modern phase of Brahminism. Among the ele- 



mental deities of the Yedas these things are not to be found. 
Buddhism is almost a different creed in China, in Thibet 
and in Ceylon, and what the priesthood of one country 
teaches as its doctrines, that of the others denies or modifies. 
Lastly, all mythologies vary, not only in different places 
but at different times; being in a constant state of flux 
and change ; sometimes of alternate solidification into fable, 
and rarefaction into metaphor. We continually think of 
heathen religions as if each had its compact Body of divinity 
or its Thirty-Nine Articles ; and, moreover, as if it possessed 
(what our churches have never achieved) a priesthood teach 
ing precisely the same doctrines at all times and everywhere, 
neither more spiritual nor more carnal, more philosophic 
nor more stupid the one than the other. As things actually 
are, we may fairly rate the judgment of an Eastern creed 
derivable from its living priests at the value which would 
pertain to a summary of Christianity obtained by going 
about Europe asking questions of an Anglican bishop, an 
Italian capuchin, a Scotch presbyter, and a Greek papas ; 
and digesting their answers, as best we might, into a system 
of theology, omitting whatever might seem merely sen 
sible and common-place, and carefully noting everything 
grotesque and surprising which came in our way. 

Take it as we may, the creation of the theology and 
mythology of each religion is a process more remarkable 
and more interesting the more we endeavour to get near 
to it and realize how it can have been accomplished. I 
know of few better attempts to deal with its mystery than 
in the essay on Semitic Monotheism in these volumes : 

The primitive intuition of God, and the ineradicable feeling of 
dependence on God, could only have been the result of a primitive 
revelation in the truest sense of the word. Man, who owed his ex 
istence to God and whose being centred and rested in God, saw and 
felt God as the only sense of his own and of all other existence. By 


the very act of creation God had revealed himself. This primitive 
intuition of God, however, was in itself neither monotheistic nor poly 
theistic, though it might become either. It is too often forgotten by 
those who believe that a polytheistic worship was the most natural 
unfolding of religious life, that polytheism must everywhere have been 
preceded by a more or less conscious theism. In no language does the 
plural exist before the singular. No human mind could have conceived 
the idea of Gods without having previously conceived the idea of a 
God. The primitive intuition of Godhead is neither monotheistic nor 
polytheistic, and it finds its expression in the simplest and yet the 
most important article of faith that God is God. This must have 
been the faith of the ancestors of mankind before any division of race, 
. . . but it was not yet secured against the illusions of a double vision. 
Its expression would have been "there is a God," but not yet "there 
is but one God." 

In all heathen nations, and even partially among the 
Jews, the various aspects of nature, and names given to 
different attributes of God, led to the multiplication of 
deities, and thence by rapid degrees to the formation of 
myths and legends, and endless genealogies." How all 
those arose, which we find were actually believed, it is hard 
indeed to imagine. A certain large number may be set 
down at once as not so much Myths as Metaphors ; the 
inevitable shape into which expression of natural phenomena 
fell when language was yet all alive with imagery, and 
possessed no abstract nouns, no auxiliary verbs ; no terms, 
in short, which did not draw a picture instead of narrating 
a fact. " Words," says Miiller, " were then heavy and un 
wieldy. They said more than they ought to say." Thus, 
what is poetry now was common prose then, or rather there 
was no distinction between prose and poetrj^ and men said 
that "Night was the mother of sleep and dreams," just as 
simply as we say, " Sleep and dreams come at night time." 
Innumerable other myths are traced by modern scholars (I 
confess, as it seems to my ignorance, with tedious iteration 
and much coercion of fancy) to descriptions of solar phe- 


nomena. Every hero, according to these critics, is the Sun, 
every heroine the Moon ; and every event is affirmed to 
represent the Sun rising or the Sun setting, the Sun among 
clouds or the Sun at dawn, the Sun at the solstice or the 
Sun at the equinox, the Sun entering the Bull or the Sun 
quitting the ram till the unlearned mind marvels whether 
the ancient heathens were born and died, married, reigned, 
fought, or had any real existence other than as types of 
the Sun ; or whether they attended at all to their own affairs 
and not exclusively to those of the Solar System. But 
when we have done our best to understand all these myths, 
whether mere metaphors or elaborate allegories, we are still 
perplexed to conceive the mental conditions of what Professor 
M tiller calls the mythopceic age, in which they originated, 
and of the next, when they passed into the minds of sub 
sequent generations as accredited facts. One thing alone 
is clear, that the mass of such myths have little or nothing 
in common with the religion of the race among whom they 
were current ; and that we may as well study the Protes 
tantism of Elizabeth s reign in the Midsummer Night s Dream 
as the real faith of a Roman of the Augustan age in Ovid s 

The one satisfactory source of knowledge concerning all 
religions, is neither the moral state of the people who hold 
them, nor their current myths, but their Sacred Literature. 
This alone supplies us at first hand with the fountain from 
which all that is really characteristic and important in each 
creed has been derived. Here we get at the thoughts about 
God and duty and immortality of real men whose spiritual ex 
perience (to use Rowland Williams great phrase) generated 
the religious atmosphere in which their disciples ever since 
have breathed. Here we are face to face with the prophets 
of old, no longer transfigured and seen through a halo of 
adoring fable, but as they were in the flesh, writing as best 


they could, the burning thoughts of their souls. Here then, 
if anywhere, lies the mine of wealth out of which we must 
dig our knowledge of the great creeds of the world. 

But in such literature there are always varied stages. 
The earliest books (invariably accounted most sacred) indicate 
the first vague shape which the creed assumed. The books 
of the second period, and of lesser sanctity, present the 
creed in more definite form, and are also, nearly always, of 
a more distinctly ethical character. Lastly, after every 
Bible there comes a Talmud, the commentaries and cere 
monial regulations by which the earlier prophetic utterances 
and the secondary ethical precepts are in time overlaid. 
Usually it happens that during the long interval between 
the beginning and end of such a cycle of literature in any 
country, the creed itself has undergone essential modifi 
cations, whether, as in Judaism, by rising into a higher 
spirituality, and incorporating the doctrine of immortality ; 
or, as in Brahminism, by declension into the worship of 
material idols. 

Before endeavouring to recapitulate Professor Muller s 
conclusions regarding some of these great works, a few 
reflections on the extraordinary nature of Sacred Books may 
well be bestowed. 

Looking back from the rich garden of literature which 
human genius and industry (and we may add human vanity 
and folly) have created for us, "the heirs of all the ages," 
it is almost touching to learn how the first few books of the 
world, the wild flowers which sprang up spontaneously in all 
their glory and freshness in that yet unbroken soil, were 
cherished and well-nigh adored. A book, strange is it to 
remember, was once, per se, a sacred thing. And as a 
young writer even now looks on his first printed work 
with a curious sort of parental sense, beholding the child 
of his mind standing before him, the mysterious logos em- 


bodied in tangible shape, no longer a part of himself, but 
having as it were independent life, so, in those far-off ages, 
mankind looked on the first books with awe and wonder as 
Incarnate Thoughts. Beneath a synagogue in Jerusalem 
there is a vault where, even yet, old worn-out books and 
manuscripts are piously buried, a memorial of the time 
when every written law was believed to have had, not only 
a human scribe, but an inspiring deity to direct the legis 
lator, and every poem was understood to have had a Muse, 
by whose aid so wondrous an achievement was brought about. 
By degrees the best of the old, and the oldest of the best 
books, through all the pious Eastern lands, became hallowed 
and set apart, to be confounded no more with merely 
mortal works. They were canonized as saintly Christian 
men were afterwards canonized, first by the common voice, 
then perhaps, as in the case of the Buddhist scriptures, by 
decrees of councils, and, at last, by universal consent and 
tradition. Is this very marvellous ? Have we any difficulty 
in conceiving how it happened ? Nay, but was it not rather 
the most natural thing in the world ? Who can estimate 
the mysterious enchantment which belongs to the words of 
a great book, when generations have passed away uttering 
them in every hour of joy and agony, and finding expres 
sion in them for all their hope and all their penitence? 
The cathedral roof, which has bent over the prayers of a 
thousand years, seems redolent of their incense ; the altar 
where our fathers have knelt becomes for us a shrine. So 
it is with books also, with the very words and phrases which 
have been as silver trumpets through which men s voices 
have gone upward to heaven for millenniums. Does any one 
believe that the outbursts of faith and grief in the Psalms 
or the old prayers of Basil and Chrysostom, are just the 
same now, no richer or fuller of meaning than when they 
were first written ? Had they been buried then in that 


Syrian vault and exhumed for some antiquary to decipher 
to-day, would they be for us what they now are when for 
ages human hearts have embalmed them ? Not so. Words 
whose sound has gone out into all lands, awakening, con 
soling, purifying the souls of men age after age, cannot be 
for us like other words. They come to us breathing memories 
of childhood and of our mother s prayers, and through them 
we seem to hear a murmur as of the voices of all the holy 
dead. Such sanctity as this depends little upon theories of 
" inspiration/ or arguments concerning the authority of a 
canon or the authenticity of a codex ; but nothing is more 
natural than that a devout mind should attribute directly 
to God s dictation what seems at once so sacred and so 

It is not hard to recognize these truths applied to our own 
scriptures and liturgies. Can we not discern also that, in 
a great measure, the same principle must hold good for 
nations whose sacred books have far less beauty and meaning 
for us, and far less absolutely, by any standard we can admit 
for a moment ; but which may very possibly have a certain 
habitual fitness and home sentiment, for the nations to whom 
they belong, which even greater books may lack ? Doubt 
less, Arab and Indian melodies are immeasurably inferior 
to German and Italian airs, yet we should not marvel, but 
take it as a trait of human nature, if an Arab or Indian 
listened delighted to the monotonous jangle of his native 
instruments, and shed tears over tunes which rather inclined 
us to laughter. The fact that a Brahmin can find in the 
Yedas, or an Arab in the Koran, much more than we can 
find in either of beauty and sublimity, should cause us no sur 
prise. The wonder is rather, how we western Europeans, we 
of Aryan race, feel such intense sympathy with the literature 
of a Semitic people, and are far more at home in Genesis 
than in the Iliad, in the speculations of Job than in those of 


Plato. The explanation is to be found, perhaps, first in the 
marvellous greatness of the Hebrew literature ; and in its 
intensely human character which ever recalls to each of us 
the freshness of youth, and gives it a claim to be the liter 
ature not of one people but of humanity. Secondly, we 
English and Germans, who of European nations most prize 
the Bible, have been for a thousand years fed upon it, till 
Jewish and Syrian ideas come to us far more naturally than 
those of our own Odin-worshipping ancestors. To them, in 
deed, it may well be doubted whether the Hebrew Scriptures 
(could they have read them) would have seemed half so fine 
as Beowulf or the elder Nibelungen-Lied. But on the strong 
wild stems of Norse and Teuton races the graft of Judaic 
thought has flourished vigorously, and we, the fruit thereof, 
show more mental likeness, perchance, to the graft than to 
our original stem. 

It is easy to turn the Sacred Books of the heathens into 
ridicule, by quoting from them monstrous myths, childish 
precepts, and especially that almost universal perversion of 
morals whereby ceremonies are exalted to the level of the 
most imperative duties. As the Institutes of Menu speak of 
" killing the inhabitants of three worlds and eating with 
unwashed hands " as of crimes of parallel magnitude, so 
nearly every ancient law-book places things mala in se and 
things mala prohibita (such as gathering sticks on the Sab 
bath) in most unfit equality. The error obviously arises 
from the notion that ceremonial observances are duties 
directly owed to God, and therefore of infinite obligation, 
while other duties, it is imagined, are only indirectly divine, 
and are owed to man, and therefore of minor sanctity. 
Though if there be one point more clear than another in the 
teaching of Christ, it is his denunciation of such pharisaism, 
and of the giving of tithes of mint, anise, and cummin, to 
the neglect of justice and truth, yet from his age to ours 


Christendom has never shaken itself wholly free thereof. 
Ifc is idle then to point to these puerile precepts, and the 
endless commentaries upon them, as proving the worthless- 
ness of heathen books. 

Modern philology and ethnology have grouped the 
languages and nations of Europe and Asia in wholly dif 
ferent classification from the purely geographical order 
formerly used ; and this new classification Professor Muller 
conceives to be applicable no less to the religions than the 
tongues of the various races. The order he adopts may be 
briefly thus described : 

1. The Aryan or Indo-European race, branching into the 
northern Indian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sclavonic, Teuton, 
and Celtic races, with all their languages : Sanscrit (the 
elder sister), Zend, Persian, Greek, Latin, German, Celtic, 
French, English, etc. 

2. The Semitic race, branching into Assyrians, Jews, 
Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Arabs, etc. ; with their languages, 
of which Hebrew and Arabic are the most important. 

3. The Turanian race, comprising Mongols, Turks, Malays, 
Siamese, and many of the Indian nations, with their re 
spective languages. 

4. The Chinese, with their unique monosyllabic language. 
After these, between whom all history, all religion, all 

literature, and all art are well-nigh divided, there are the 
African, American, and Polynesian races (variously arranged 
by ethnologists), with whose languages and religions we 
have here no concern. The ethnology of the great Egyptian 
race in the world s pedigree seems to be still a matter of 
doubt. Their language is said by scholars to have some 
singular affinities with that of the Hottentots. 

By the Aryan and Semitic races has the progress of the 
world been carried on, and in them our interest, both here- 


ditary and historical, necessarily centres. Now, a very sin 
gular parallel, which so far as I am aware has not been 
hitherto remarked, may be traced between the religious 
history of these two great tribes. I venture to suggest it 
as one of the most curious parallels in history. 

In both Aryan and Semitic races there have existed several 
minor creeds which, in process of ages, have disappeared. In 
the Aryan race, for example, there have been the religions 
of Greece and Rome, Odin-worship and Druidism. In the 
Semitic race there have been the Assyrian, Phoenician and 
sundry other idolatries. But in each race there has also been 
one great religion which, beginning at the very dawn of 
history, has lasted to the present hour, namely, Vedic-Brah- 
minism among the Aryans, arid Judaism in the Semitic race. 
And each of these great religions has had two vast offshoots, 
or schisms, which, also, still survive ; namely, Zoroastrianism 
and Buddhism from Brahminism ; and Christianity and Islam 
from Judaism. Further. All six of these religions are 
possessed of a Sacred Literature, to which divine authority 
is attributed by their adherents ; namely, among the Aryans : 

The Yedas of the Brahmans ; 

The Zend-Avesta of the Zoroastrians ; 

The Tripitaka of the Buddhists ; 

and among the Semitic race : 

The Old Testament of the Jews ; 

The New Testament of the Christians ; 

The Koran of the Moslems. 

Beside these Aryan and Semitic Scriptures, there only 
exist in the world two other ancient sacred books of any 
value, namely the Kings of the Confucian Chinese, and the 
Taote-king of the Taoists of China ; the Grunth of the 
Sikhs being a comparatively modern work. 


Lastly, as if to perfect the parallel, recent calculations 
tend to show that at the present hour, after four thousand 
years of development, the great religions of the Semitic and 
Aryan races are almost on an equality in point of numbers ; 
Brahminism and Buddhism, with the small remnant of 
Zoroastrians, counting together (according to an authority 
accepted by Professor Miiller) about 44 per cent, of the 
human race ; and Judaism, Islam, and Christianity num 
bering nearly 45 per cent, on the same calculation. 

It would be impossible to heighten the effect of so amazing 
a coincidence by any reflections. One fact, however, must 
not be forgotten. Among all these creeds, Christianity alone 
is extending itself; all the rest, without exception, are dying 
out. Whether the extension of Christianity have any con 
siderable motive force beside the superior energies, the 
conquests and colonLzings of the Anglo-Saxon race, and 
whether a collapse of the British Empire would leave the 
progress of Christianity undisturbed, we need not inquire. 
The prior question would need to be settled before any con 
clusion could be drawn from such premisses : What share 
has Christianity, and especially free and moral Protestant 
Christianity, had in making the Englishman what he is, 
and giving to Queen Victoria those realms on which the sun 
never sets ? 

I propose briefly to follow Professor Miiller, not into all 
the varied woods and groves of literature wherein he has 
cut his " Chips," but through his more weighty discussions 
on the Sacred Books of the East. Of these, those of the 
Aryan race have chiefly occupied him, leaving room for one 
essay only on the Confucian books, and one on Semitic 
Monotheism. To begin, then, with the oldest and most 
interesting of all. 

"In the Aryan w T orld," says Professor Miiller, "the Veda 
is certainly the oldest book." And it is emphatically a book, 


not a mere monument or record of conquests and successive 
dynasties. Here lies its immense interest, for " poets are 
better than kings, and guesses at truth are more valuable 
than unmeaning titles of Egyptian or Babylonian despots." 
The word Veda means "knowledge," being, in fact, the 
same word as " wit " or " wise." There are four books 
known as Vedas, and commonly represented in the four 
hands of Brahma the Creator, namely, the Rig Yeda, the 
Yagur Yeda, the Sama Yeda, and Atharva Yeda. But the 
three last, says Professor Miiller, no more deserve the name 
of Yedas than the Talmud deserves the name of Bible. The 
Yagur Yeda is, in fact, a prayer-book ; the Sama Yeda, a 
hymn-book ; and the Atharva Yeda, a sort of rubric ; each 
for the use of a different order of priests at the sacrifices. 
The Rig Yeda, containing the most ancient hymn of praise, 
is the Yeda par excellence. It consists of two parts, 
the oldest hymns or Mantras, called Sanhita, and a number 
of prose comments called Brahmanas and Sutras. The Rig 
Yeda Sanhita consists of ten books containing 1028 hymns ; 
and 600 years before Christ the scholars of India had 
counted these 1028 hymns, and found they contained 
10,402 verses, and 432,000 syllables) a number approximately 
verified in existing MSS. The date of these hymns must 
be somewhere between 1200 and 1500 B.C., albeit no MS. 
exists of much more than five centuries old. This high 
antiquity, demonstrated by various arguments, is corrobo 
rated by a curious observation. In modern literature one 
epoch, nay one single author, often uses the most varied 
styles of composition, poetry, history, criticism, science. 
But in ancient times, says Miiller, " the individual is much 
less prominent, and the poet s character disappears in the 
general character of the layer of literature to which he 
belongs, It is the discovery of such large strata of liter 
ature following each other in regular succession, which 


inspires the critical historian with confidence in the truly 
historical character of the successive literary productions of 
ancient India/ where " an age of poets was followed by 
an age of collectors and imitators ; then by an age of theo 
logical prose writers, and finally by an age of writers of 
scientific manuals." 

Of the sanctity of the Rig Yeda, in the opinion of Brah 
mins, nothing too much can possibly be said. " The Yeda 
is sruti, or Hearing; all other books, even the great code 
of Menu, is smriti, or Recollection." "The views enter 
tained of revelation, by the orthodox theologians of India," 
says Miiller, "are far more minute and elaborate than 
those of the most extreme advocates of verbal inspiration 
in Europe." The whole Yeda is the work of deity, and 
even the men who received it were raised above common 
fallible mortality. The human element is utterly denied 
a place. "The Yeda existed before all time in the mind 
of God." As the institutes of Menu say, "To deities and 
to men, the Scripture is an eye of light ; nor could the 
Yeda Shastras have been made by human faculties, nor can 
they be measured by human reason unassisted by revealed 
glosses and commentaries. Such codes of laws as are not 
founded on the Yeda produce no good fruit after death. 
All systems which are repugnant to the Yeda must have 
been composed by mortals and shall soon perish. Their 
modern date proves them vain and false." 1 The real writers 
of the Yeda however, like those of other books, for which 
similar claims have been advanced, make no pretension to 
write by divine dictation, but implore the Deity to inspire 
them. One of them cries, "0 Indra ! Whatever I now 
may utter, longing for thee, do thou accept it. Make me 
possessed of God ! " (Rig Yeda, vi. 47, 10.) Another 
utters for the first time the Gayatri, which now for more 
1 Institutes of Menu, c. 12, v. 94, 95. 


than three thousand years has been the daily prayer of 
every Brahman, and is still repeated every morning by 
millions of pious worshippers." "Let us meditate on the 
adorable light of the Divine Creator ! May He rouse our 
minds ! " 

Very various degrees of merit are displayed by the 
different poems of the Yedas. Some of them are tedious 
and childish. The gods are invoked, with endless repeti 
tions, to protect their worshippers, and to grant them all sorts 
of terrestrial blessings. Yet interesting in many ways are 
even these more puerile hymns. They reveal that mental 
condition in the writers, of which we have already spoken 
as a theism which is not yet properly either monotheism 
or polytheism. Each god, when worshipped, is successively 
thought of as the God, and invested with supreme attributes ; 
and here and there may be traced a dim recognition that 
the Many are but One; as it is said (Rig Yeda, i. 164, 46), 

"They call Him Indra, Mitra, Yaruna, Agni That 

which is One, the wise call in divers manners." Some of 
these gods, like Agni (Fire), seem to be merely elementary ; 
others, like Yaruna, are already defined personages ; but in 
no case is there any trace of their worship having taken 
the form of idolatry. The worship of idols in India is a 
degradation of the Yedic worship of ideal gods. 

The Trimurti of Brahma, Seeva, and Yishnu, as already 
stated, is altogether the product of a later age. In the 
Atharva Yeda occurs the first mention of " BRAHMAN " (used 
originally in the neuter, and eventually changed into a 
masculine noun), translated by Professor Miiller to signify 
"Force" or "Will," and said to be the "First-born, the 
Self- existing, the best of the Gods, by whom heaven and 
earth were established." Yery marvellously, surely, does this 
name for God, signifying ambiguously both Will and Force, 
correspond to the latest theories which the modern doctrine 


of correlated forces has suggested to men of science, even 
within the last few years, in England. If it become the 
accepted belief amongst us that the forces of nature hold 
to God s will the direct relation which man s nervous force 
does to his will, or in other words, that the dynamic power 
of the universe is the vital force of God, we shall hardly 
find in relation to such a doctrine a better name for the 
great MOVER of all things than " Brahman." 

Here and there through the Yeda break out expressions 
of wonder respecting the physical mysteries of the universe, 
betraying already the deep thoughtfulness and speculative 
tendencies of that Aryan intellect of which Plato and 
Aristotle, Kant and Hegel, were inheritors. Listen to 
the following from the Rig Yeda (x. 81-4) : " What was 
the forest, what was the tree, out of which they shaped 
heaven and earth ? Wise men ask this : on what He stood 
when He held the worlds ?" Or to the still more remark 
able 129th hymn of the 10th book, of which Professor 
Miiller has given a full translation ending in the lines of 
which he may well observe; "At this period no poet in 
any other nation could have conceived them." 

Who knows from whence this great creation sprung ? 
He from whom all this great creation came, 
Whether His will created or was mute ? 
The Most High Seer that is in highest heaven, 
He knows it or perchance even He knows not ! 

A matter of still greater interest is the moral life which may 
be traced through these oldest of human compositions. The 
Brahmin mind, from the first, was of a highly intellectual 
cast, while in the Iranian race the moral element visibly 
predominated. Yet it is evident that, in the age of the 
Yedas, religion and morality were already linked with that 
closeness which we discover in the Hebrew writings, and 
so often miss in those of the Greeks. Many a Christian 


reader might take unawares for one of the Psalms of Israel 
some of the hymns quoted by Professor Miiller, merely 
changing the name Yaruna (Ouranos, Heaven) for Jehovah. 
Witness the following (Rig Veda, vii. 89) : 

Let me not yet, Varuna, enter into the house of clay. Have mercy, 

Almighty, have mercy ! 
Through want of strength have I done wrong. Have mercy, Almighty, 

have mercy ! 
Whenever we men, Varuna, commit an offence before the heavenly 

host, whenever we break the law through thoughtlessness, have 

mercy, Almighty, have mercy ! 

How wonderful is it here to find the LAW that great 

Unwritten law divine, 

Immutable, eternal, not like those of yesterday, 
But made ere time began 

of which Sophocles wrote, here spoken of already in the 
first dawn of the world, perchance ere yet Moses was born, 
as "the Law " the law of God, for whose neglect man prays 
to be forgiven ! 

And again (Rig Yeda, vii. 86) : 

Wide and mighty are the works of Him who stemmed asunder the wide 
firmaments and lifted on high the bright and glorious heaven. He 
stretched out apart the starry sky and the earth. . . . 

How can I approach unto Varuna ? Will he accept my offering without 
displeasure ? . . . Absolve us from the sins of our fathers, and from 
those which we have committed with our own bodies. . . . 

It was not our own doing, Varuna ! It was temptation, an intoxi 
cating draught, passion and thoughtlessness, Even sleep brings 

The Lord God enlighteneth the foolish. . . Lord Varuna, may this 
song go to thine heart. 

The likeness of the following (Atharva Yeda, iv. 6) to 
Psalm 139 is remarkable : 

The great Lord of the worlds sees as if he were near. If a man 
stands, or walks, or hides, if he lies down or rises up, King Varuna 


knows it. He is there as the third. He who should flee far beyond 
the sky, even he would not be rid of Varuna. . . King Varuna sees all 
that is between heaven and earth. He has counted the twinklings 
of the eyes of men. 

In conclusion, Professor Miiller tells us there is no trace 
of the doctrine of metempsychosis in the Yeda, but, on the 
contrary, many references to personal immortality as an 
accepted fact. A few vague threats of a "pit/ 7 and of the 
" dogs of Yama " (death), hint at punishment for the 
wicked, and the good man expects a felicity thus conceived 
of (Rig Yeda, ix. 113, 7) : 

Where there is eternal light, in the world where the sun is placed, in 

that immortal imperishable world, . . . 
Where life is free, in the third heaven of heavens, where the worlds are 

radiant, where there is happiness and delight, where joy and pleasure 

reside, where the desires of our desire are attained, there make me 

immortal ! 

Next in age and importance to the Yedas in the Aryan 
world are the Zoroastrian sacred books ; the scriptures of the 
Parsees, commonly comprised under the name of the Zend- 
Avesta. Of these books an account was given by the present 
writer (compiled from the translations of Haug, Spiegel, 
"Westergaard, etc.) in Fraser s Magazine three years ago. 1 
So far as he has traversed the same ground, Professor Miiller, 
I am happy to find, seems to sanction all the statements of 
that paper. To those who have not read the article in ques 
tion, it may be briefly told that the conclusions of recent 
Zend scholarship are these : In the beginning of history 
the Aryan race, a small tribe, perhaps only a family, having 
one language and one faith, dwelt in a certain spot called 
Aryana Yaeyo, (the old Aryan Home) believed to have been 
on the banks of the Araxes, near where the city of Atropatene 
afterwards stood. It was at all events a region far north of 

1 Eeprinted in Studies Ethical and Social. 1 vol., 8vo. Williams & Norgate. 



India, where winter reigned for ten months of the year. 1 
After the lapse of years or centuries who can tell how many ? 
the race parted into two great branches : the Iranians, who 
were agriculturists, labouring in Bactria ; and the Brahmins, 
penetrating into India, where their nomad habits ended. 
This eventful severance was not effected without some bitter 
strife and religious dissension. Nay, it was perhaps primarily 
rather a religious schism than a national disruption. In the 
rich fossil-beds of Language, where science is daily in 
structing us more and more to seek for relics of the earlier 
world which no false dealings with history can have dis 
torted, there appears unmistakable evidence that the Zoro- 
astrian and Yedic creeds bore to each other the inimical 
attitude of reformed and unreformed churches, of a great 
Catholicity and a great Protestantism. It was something 
more than the rancour wherewith, in modern times, 

Some have learned to curse the shrine 
Where others kneel to heaven, 

for gods and devils were actually made to exchange places. 
The Deva in Brahminism are gods. In the Zend-Avesta 
they are demons. The Asura are the evil spirits of the later 
Brahminism ; and Ahura-Mazda is Zoroaster s name for the 
Supreme God himself. Indra, god of the sky, chief god 
of one Yedic period, is the second of the devils in the Zend- 
Avesta. And so on through a bewildering dance of heaven s 
and hell s inhabitants. The rites of the two creeds also show 
intimate connexion, and are visibly only variations of the 
same original cultus, but here again are traces of the same 
fierce strife. The sacred Soma, which in the Brahminical 
religion holds a place analogous to the sacramental Host 
cf Catholicism, is spoken of in one of the most ancient 
fragments of the Zend-Avesta with extremest horror and 

2 First Fargard of the Vendidad. 


contempt. " Who will pollute," it asks, " that intoxicating 
liquor which makes proud the priests of the idols ? " (Yasna 
47.) Here then took place the earliest schism of the world ; 
a schism unhealed after three thousand years. Asia at that 
hour fell morally asunder. The Brahmin race went on, to 
pass through intellectual processes of amazing depth and 
complexity, and to arrive at last at the miserable result of 
modern Hindooism. The Iranian race, on the contrary, 
made a vigorous and healthful Morality the heart of their 
religion, and after having largely influenced western thought 
through Jews and Greeks, have left to this hour in the rem 
nant of Parsees no unworthy representatives of Zoroaster s 
disciples, uncorrupted by either polytheism or idolatry, the 
impure rites or the cruel laws of the nation ainid which 
they dwell. " A Par see," says Professor Miiller, " believes 
in one God, to whom he addresses his prayers." According 
to his catechism he is taught that : " This God has neither 
face nor form, colour nor shape, nor fixed place. He is 
Himself alone, and of such glory that we cannot praise or 
describe Him, nor our minds comprehend Him." " Whoever 
believes in any other god but this is an infidel." Believing 
in the punishment of vice and the reward of virtue, the 
Parsee trusts for pardon in the mercy of God. " If any 
one commit sin," (says the Zarthosti Catechism), " under 
the belief that he shall be saved by somebody ; both the 
deceiver as well as the deceived shall be damned to the day 
of Rasta Khez " (the final restoration- day of all men and all 
spirits). " Your Saviour is your deeds and God Himself. 
He is the Pardoner and the Giver." (Miiller, vol. i. p. 176.) 

Midway through the millennium which separated the ages 
of Zoroaster and Christ, there was born in India the second 
great teacher who rent Brahminism in twain, and founded 
the religion which even now counts 450,000,000 disciples. 


Buddha (the Enlightened) was the Auguste Corate of the 
East. He taught a noble morality, without a God to com 
mand, or a heaven to reward it. He cut away the roots of 
all authority ; and immediately himself became a supreme 
and unquestionable authority, so that a few years after his 
death his followers held, "That which Buddha said, that 
alone was well said." He proposed x the idea of Humanity 
at large as the object of benevolence and formed a scheme 
of politics subversive of the whole order of society. He 
taught his disciples to spend several hours a day in the 
repetition of prayers and forbade them to suppose that any 
being in the universe paid them the slightest attention. 
Finally, he instructed mankind that after this life there is 
nothing to be hoped for and that the highest virtue leads 
soonest to the state wherein virtue is at an end for ever. 

Such are the original and still orthodox doctrines of 
Buddhism according to Professor Miiller, M. de Saint- 
Hilaire, and Eugene Burnouf. Some doubt exists whether 
the book containing the metaphysics of Buddhism be really 
the record of his teachings or the original speculations of 
his pupil Kasyapa ; but, however this point may be settled, 
ancient and modern Buddhist literature bears too many 
testimonies to the atheism of the system, and too often 
defines the future Nirvana as empty nothingness, to permit 
us to deny that philosophic Buddhism is a religion without 
a God and without a heaven. 2 

A religion like this is an amazing portent in the history 
of human development. But does its appearance prove that 
the Religious Sentiment in man is a weak and variable 
impulse, the result of early impressions and to be swept 

1 Professor Miiller says he originated this idea of Humanity. The above 
parallel between Buddha and Comte, however, is no way sanctioned by Professor 

2 See a very interesting little work, The Modern Buddhist, by a Siamese Minis 
ter of State. Translated by Henry Alabaster. One vol. 12mo. 1870. 


away by the first strong hand which touches it ? Has man 
indeed no sense of immortality which makes him start and 
shudder at the endless destruction of Nirvana ? 

Nay, but it seems to me that the very opposite lesson is 
taught by the story of Buddhism. The truth that was in 
the teaching of Buddha, even a beautiful, unselfish morality, 
the millions of the further East seized upon and spread 
from land to land with a missionary zeal never displayed 
before or since, save by the disciples of him who preached 
the Sermon on the Mount. But the dead, cold, hopeless 
theology linked with that living morality of Buddhism, 
those nations never truly accepted ; and, ere long, he who 
had taught atheism was himself worshipped as an incarnate 
God (a god before he descended to earth, a god hearing 
prayers since he has ascended to heaven), and his Nirvana 
of nothingness and destruction has turned into a paradise 
where the blessed "hunger no more, neither thirst any 
more," for all holy desires have there their fruition. When 
Buddhism became the creed of millions, the Religious 
Sentiment of those millions remodelled their creed, and 
transformed an atheistic philosophy into a devout and hope 
ful religion. 1 

1 On the subject of the above-assumed Atheism of Buddhism I am indebted to 
a friend for the following observations : " It is no wise my wish to deny that 
large schools of the Buddhists in Ceylon, Thibet, China, and Siam, have in all 
ages been, and now are, Athiests. Only let it be remembered that from the first 
have existed other schools of Buddhists who were, and are, Theists. Be it also 
distinctly remembered that in each of these schools Worship has been inculcated, 
the worship of Pragna (Nature), of the Buddhas (the Great Company of Saints), 
of Dharma (or the Law of Life), and, finally, the worship of Adi Buddha. . . . 
Of this Adi Buddha, take the following account from the Aiswarika System, 
the doctrine of Iswara, or God, as opposed to the Swabhava, or Xature- 
System : Know that when in the beginning all was perfect void and the five 
elements were not, then Adi Buddha, the Stainless, was revealed in the form of 
fire or light. He who is the form of all things became manifest. He is the 
Self-existent Great Buddha. He is the cause of all existences in the Three 
Worlds, and the cause of their well being also. From his profound meditation 
the universe was produced. He is the Iswara, the sum of perfections, the 
Infinite, void of members and passions. All things are types of him, and yet he 


A most instructive picture of a religious Buddhist, when 
Buddhism was in its prime a thousand years ago, is given 
in these volumes in the sketch of the life of Hiouen Thsang, 
a Chinese whose warm devotion prompted him to travel 
to India to obtain the sacred books and visit the shrine of 
his faith. His journal, still existing, has been translated 
by M. Stanislas Julien, and reveals a character brave, 
pious, and humane, like a knight errant of chivalry. He 
lived praying perpetually to Buddha, endeavouring, like a 
Christian pilgrim, to behold visions and identify the scenes 
of Buddha s life. Finally he died with the prayer on his 
lips : " that in every future birth he might fulfil his duties 
towards Buddha, and arrive at last at the highest and most 
perfect intelligence." 1 Miiller says : " Of selfishness we find 
no trace in him. His whole life belonged to the faith in 
which he was born, and the object of his labours was not 
so much to perfect himself as to benefit others." Such then 
is the religion of a good Buddhist. It does not much 
militate assuredly against the belief that man s Religious 

was no type. Adi Buddha is without beginning. He is the essence of wisdom 
(or Absolute Truth). He knows all the past. He is without a second. He is 
omnipresent. As in a mirror we mortals see our forms reflected, so Adi Buddha 
is known in Creation. Adi Buddha has delight in making happy every sentient 
being. He tenderly loves those who serve him. He is the assuager of pain and 
grief. He is the giver of the ten virtues ; the Creator of all the Buddhas, the 
Lord of the Universe. How far do these passages, translated by B. H. Hodgson 
(to whom Eugene Burnouf owns his obligations), from the original Sanskrit 
works, disclose the primary form of Buddhism ? The reply is, that these works 
are from Nepaul, in the vicinity of the birthplace of Buddhism, where we might 
expect to find the purest and oldest traditions. The original Sanskrit works must 
surely be at least as trustworthy as the Cingalese, Thibetan, and Chinese transla 
tions ? . . . From these Nepaul works, then, it would appear that Sakya Muni 
Gautama was a heroic reformer who sought to redeem his people from their 
servitude to the Brahmanic hierarchy, metaphysics, and caste system, by teaching, 
and in his life illustrating, the True Way of Deliverance from The Circle 
of Change. He was an Atheist and an annihilationist in much the same sense 
as J. G. Fichte was when he taught that the Way towards the Blessed Life was 
by forsaking the transitory and perishable, and being one with the Eternal." 

1 Chips, vol. i. p. 276. 


Sentiment is essentially the same, whether in the breast 
of an old Chinese, who probably never heard of Europe 
or Europe s faith, or in that of an Englishman of to-day; 
whether developed into the ecstatic piety of a Tauler, or 
with infantile weakness beginning (as men are said to 
have done in the American-Indian history quoted in these 
volumes) "not yet to worship the gods, but only to turn 
their face up to heaven" 1 

The sacred canon of Buddhism was settled at the first 
synod, the Nicaean Council, of the new religion. The 
whole collection is called the Tripitoka, a word signifying 
Three Baskets. The first basket contains the Sutras or 
discoveries of Buddha, compiled by his pupil Ananda. The 
second, the Vinaya, contains the code of morality, noted 
down by another pupil, Upali. The third, the Abhidharma, 
contains the Buddhist system of metaphysics, arranged by a 
third pupil, Kasyapa. Again there is a sacred canon of 
the Thibetan Buddhists, consisting of two immense collec 
tions called the Kanjur and Tanjur. The first consists of 108 
folio volumes, comprising 1083 distinct works, and has been 
bartered for 7000 oxen. The Tanjur consists of 225 folios. 
Both have been printed by the Buddhists at Lhassa and 
at Pekiii. The whole sacred literature of the Buddhists, 
including the Lotus de la bonne Lot, translated by M. Eugene 
Burnouf, the Lalita Vistara, or biography of Buddha, and 
the Dhamma Padam, or " Footsteps of the Law," is of such 
magnitude that though of late years innumerable MSS. 
have been discovered and many scholars engaged in their 
examination, a complete view of the subject is yet unattain 
able. Professor Miiller has not (I regret to say) given 
us in these volumes any extracts from the Buddhist canon 
similar to those he has taken from the Yedas. A few pas- 

1 Popul Vuh a supposed relic of the legendary history of Guatemala. Chips, 
vol. i. p. 337. 


sages from the Dhamma Padam may give the reader an idea 
of the character of these books : 

Conquer anger by mildness, evil by good, falsehood by truth. . . Be 
not desirous of discovering the faults of others, but zealously guard 
against your own. . . Abstain from foolish conversation and from 
betraying the secrets of others. Abstain from coveting, from all evil 
wishes to others, from all unjust suspicion. To be free from sin, be 
contented, be grateful, subject to reproof, having a mind unshaken by 
prosperity and adversity. He is a more noble warrior who subdues him 
self than he who in battle conquers thousands. . . As the mighty rock 
Maha-meru-parvati remains unshaken by the storm, so is the wise 
unmoved by praise or disapprobation. All the religion of Buddha is 
contained in these three precepts : purify thy mind ; abstain from vice ; 
practise virtue. To the virtuous all is pure. Therefore think not that 
going unclothed, fasting or lying on the ground, can make the impure 
pure, for the mind will still remain the same. 

Another precept commands every Buddhist before he 
sleeps to wish well to all mankind. Should there be a per 
son towards whom he finds he cannot perform such an act 
of mental benevolence, he is further counselled to resolve 
on doing that person some kindness, when, it is added, he 
will find no further difficulty in wishing him well. 

All virtues, says Professor Miiller, in the Buddhist re 
ligion are said to spring from maiM, and this maitri can 
only be translated (Eugene Burnouf affirms) by the word 
"charity/ 1 " It does not express friendship," he says, " but 
that universal feeling which inspires us with good-will to 
all men, and constant willingness to help them." 

Such are the precepts of Buddhism ; precepts which many 
who have dwelt in Buddhist countries affirm to have a real 
practical influence on the lives of the millions by whom they 
are revered as divine revelation. Let us rejoice that so it 
should be, and that almost the largest of existing creeds 
assuredly the largest of all, if we count the numbers of past 
generations is not a mere mass of idle fable and corrupt 


rites, and that God has by no means " left himself without 
a witness " among these thronging myriads of His children. 
It is a strange reflection that among the departed whom 
we look to meet hereafter in the Land of Souls, the followers 
of Buddha must outnumber all the rest of that Company 
of Heaven to which we shall be admitted by 

The shadow cloaked from head to foot, 
Who keeps the keys of all the creeds. 

Before quitting these interesting volumes, I must beg to 
question one remark of the author. His fact is no doubt 
correct, but the inference he draws from it seems to me 
seriously erroneous. The modern doctrine of the slow de 
velopment of humanity through tens of thousands of years 
from lower types of animal life, is affirmed by Professor 
Miiller to be exploded by the discovery of philologists, that 
language, so far as it can be traced back, is always human 
and rational, and always in a state of development. " The 
idea," he says (vol. ii. p. 8), "of a humanity emerging 
slowly from the depths of an animal brutality can never be 
maintained again." And why ? Because " the earliest work 
of art wrought by the hnman mind, more ancient than any 
literary document, and prior to the first whisperings of tra 
dition the human language forms an uninterrupted chain 
from the first dawn of history down to our own times." 
First, the Professor asserts, there was a period (to which he 
gives the name* of Rhematic) when a language was spoken 
containing the germs of Turanian, Semitic, and Aryan 
speech. Then, in successive periods, these three divided 
and subdivided into all the languages of Europe and Asia : 
a Confusion of Tongues occupying some five thousand years, 
and going on at the present time. 

But this slow evolution, and multiplication of species ot 
language, is, if I mistake not, precisely analogous to that 


very development of animal species which the geologist 
traces in the successive strata of the earth s crust, and on 
which he founds his theory of progressive life. He, also, 
finds at the earlier periods, simpler forms ; but forms even 
then beautiful and appropriate ; and as he advances, he finds 
these forms of animal and vegetable life multiply in number 
and increase in complexity of organization. The very ground 
of his argument is, that such appears to have been the order 
of succession, and not the reverse process. That the first 
discovered relics of language are not senseless, but rational, 
and grammatically organized, is no more against the theory 
of human development than that the earliest known fossils 
are not chaotic lumps, but remains of organisms obviously 
well adapted to the conditions under which they once had 
life. In neither case have we reached the bottom of the 
strata. There may well have been a long succession of ages 
(on Darwin s hypothesis there was an immensely extended 
succession of ages) between the first existence of man and 
Professor Miiller s Hhematic period of languages, or before 
any period of which, from the nature of the case, we can 
recover a trace. According to Professor Miiller s own ac 
count, in another essay, 1 the first development of monotheism 
took place " when together with the awakening of ideas, the 
first attempts only were being made at expressing the sim 
plest conceptions, by means of a language most simple, most 
sensuous, and most unwieldy " a Saurian or Megatherium 
sort of language, in short, compared to agile Greek and 
stalwart English. We cannot possibly get below this to 
the very earliest formations or azoic rocks of language (if 
such there ever were), for the period to which they should 
belong could leave no relics behind, save such as we believe 
we have actually found, namely, bones and stone weapons. 
Surely the fair conclusion to be drawn from the facts is 
1 On Semitic Monotheism. 


precisely the converse of that which the Professor has stated, 
namely, that in human Language, as in all other fields of 
inquiry, the evidence in favour of a slow progress from 
simple to complex, from the lower forms of life to the higher, 
is altogether complete and overwhelming ? 

Three modes of creation alone are imaginable : 

A Retrograde Creation, ever falling back, like the works 
of human hands, from cosmos to chaos the Creation of a 

A Stagnant Creation, finished from the first and unchange 
able the Creation of a Stone. 

A Progressive Creation, ever unfolding in beauty and joy 
the Creation of a Flower. 

Of these three, God has chosen that His world should be 
of the third order. Who is it that will say, He has not 
chosen well ? 



THE peculiar pleasure taken by Americans, like Washington 
Irving and Hawthorne, in exploring the nooks and corners of 
England and re- attaching the threads of tradition which con 
nect their new country with the old home in Europe, might 
not inaptly be paralleled for us Englishmen, by the interest 
of researches concerning the progenitors of our whole Aryan 
stock in Persia and India. "While antiquarians of the earlier 
school have been disputing what proportions of our language, 
laws, religion, and social customs are derived respectively from 
Saxons, Normans, Danes, Romans, and Celts, the students of 
Zend and Sanscrit literature have been occupied in revealing 
to us an ancestry, behind all the ancestries of which we had 
hitherto taken count ; a primeval Home whence have come 
even the names of our closest relationships, and the fables and 
fairy-tales of our nurseries. Who would have dreamed here 
tofore that when an English parent spoke of his " daughter," 
he recalled, in that familiar word, the days, millenniums 
past, when the young maiden of the old Bactrian dwelling 
was " she-who-milks-the-coivs" even as our legal term "spinster" 
reverts to the comparatively recent time when it was her task 
to " spin " ? Who that told a child the heart-breaking tale 

1 Ancient and Mediceval India. By Mrs. Manning. Allen & Co., London, 
1869. 2 vols. 8vo., pp. 435 and 380. 


of Llewellyn s Dog, supposed that he was repeating a legend 
familiar to men of our blood who dwelt under the shadow of 
the Himalayas when busy England was a forest ? 

As yet the bearings of the great discoveries of Orientalists 
have been little apprehended. The innumerable points at 
which they must eventually impinge on our opinions yet 
wait to be marked. Even their most obvious theological 
consequences have been but casually noticed in any work 
of importance. But the time has nearly arrived when such 
a mass of new truths cannot lie inactive in the minds of the 
cultivated classes, but must begin to leaven all our views on 
etymology, history, philology, art, literature, and comparative 
theology. The share which the revived study of Greek at 
the Renaissance had in directing the movements of that great 
age, must in a certain partial degree have its parallel in the 
results of the modern acquisition of Sanskrit in our own. 
As one realm of Heathendom was rehabilitated then, and 
the devils with which mediseval imagination had peopled 
it vanished in the sunrise, so now another and yet wider 
field is conquered back from the kingdom of darkness to 
partake of our sympathies and widen our comprehension 
of human nature itself. A new world is given to the 
scholars of the day, and it will be hard if it does not in 
many ways "redress the balance" of the old. 

A singular contrast may be traced between the new science 
of Indo- Persian antiquity and that which a little preceded 
it, of Egyptology. In opening up Egypt to us, Belzoni, 
Champollion, Wilkinson, and Lepsius gave us the material 
portion of a nation s life. In expounding the Yedas and 
the Zend-Avesta, Jones and Wilson and Max Miiller and 
Haug and Burnouf have admitted us to the inner and 
spiritual part. The buildings and sculptures, the dress, 
utensils, toys, nay, the very bodies of the departed Egyptian 
race, all these the sands of the Nile have given back. But 


except the enigmatical, half- comprehensible "Book of the 
Dead/ and a few fragments from papyri, all the scholars 
who have used Champollion s key to hieroglyphics have failed 
to present us with anything to be called even a specimen 
of Egyptian literature. Not merely is there no Iliad, no 
Eamayana of Africa, but not a single counterpart to a Pin 
daric Ode, or Yedic Hymn. Thus we know the Egyptians, 
even while their embalmed forms stand beside us in our 
studies, only as it were at second hand. We see what 
they did, and we infer what they were. But their hearts 
have never spoken to ours save in the touching cry of 
bereaved affection from a coffin-lid ; or in the awful symbols 
on some grand sarcophagus, pointing like a dumb Job to 
death and judgment, and the faith that, over them both, 
Osiris the Redeemer liveth. 

In India all this is reversed. We have recovered the 
inner life of the nation, but not the outward. Here, in 
the real Juventus Mundi that youth which had already 
waned, ere Homer sang or David prayed here dwelt the 
poet-prophets of the Yedas, in whose hymns we may read 
to-day of hopes and fears and doubts and speculations which 
once filled the hearts and stirred the brains, whose dust has 
been scattered for ages to the four winds. Here we have no 
mummies with their parody of immortality ; no tombs stored 
with food and furniture and trinkets ; no mural pictures 
showing us every detail of the battles and the agriculture 
and the trades of the dead nation. But though we have 
not one tangible object belonging to them, we have learned 
the very words of the men who wandered by the banks of 
Indus three thousand years ago, and possessing those words 
we are truly nearer to them as intelligent beings than we 
can ever hope to be to Egyptian or Ninevite. 

India then, that same India over which our flag is flying 
from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin, is the field for literary 


research which offers the richest treasures yet to be explored. 
The Morning Land still keeps its dew, and it may yet be 
gathered fresh and sweet before the army of critics and 
commentators have marched over it and left us but dust. 

A better devised book than the one I now purpose to 
notice it would not be easy to name. It aims to bring to 
gether within the compass of two goodly volumes a general 
bird s-eye view of all that has been yet disinterred of Indian 
literature, with the revelations thereby afforded of life in 
the Peninsula from the earliest Yedic ages onwards. The 
incomparable industry of the authoress in collecting and 
sifting the materials for so great a work, is fully equalled 
by the judgment shown in their selection. There is for the 
reader no wading through tedious or half-comprehensible 
passages, such as abound in the original Eastern books. 
The interesting and remarkable points in each old poem or 
story have been picked out, and the passages from, remote 
works bearing on the same point collated ; insomuch that 
the reader can enjoy in a few hours the fruits which it 
would have cost him a dozen years of study to gather for 
himself. As to the original matter carrying on the thread 
of the work, I can only regret that the w r riter did not give 
us much more of it ; for the observations are always in 
structive, and often most suggestive and original. Great 
taste has also been shown in the selection of translations 
from various scholars, Wilson, Max Miiller, Goldstiicker, 
Muir, and others ; sometimes affording us fragments of really 
harmonious poetry, and again, when accuracy of interpre 
tation is more to the purpose, giving us quaint little bits 
of obvious literalism. In a word the book affords for Indian 
literature precisely the sort of museum which Dr. Gray 
desires the public collections to supply for Natural History. 
Instead of crowded ranges of objects good bad and in 
different over which the eye wanders idly and the mind 


wearies, we have a reasonable quantity of specimens care 
fully selected as the most characteristic and remarkable, some 
of them in the fullest glory which the taxidermist-translator 
can preserve ; and others, perhaps still more instructively, 
prepared as skeletons. The review of a book which is itself 
a vast Review must of necessity be the briefest epitome. 
My object will be to afford some general idea of the sort 
of treasures to be found in this cabinet of "curiosities of 

Twelve centuries before the Christian era is the latest 
date to which competent scholars assign the final compilation 
of the Rig- Veda Hymns in the shape wherein they now 
stand. During all the intervening ages the absolutely divine 
honours paid to the book throughout India honours even 
exceeding those which Jews, Moslems or Puritan Christians 
have paid to their scriptures have probably secured for 
us the well-nigh unchanged transmission of each venerable 
verse. Of course the age of the Rishis, or sacred poets, who 
were the authors of the hymns, must ascend considerably 
higher in point of antiquity than the recension of their 
poems. To draw from their fragmentary allusions a picture 
of life as it then existed, is a task of great interest. 

In the first place, it seems the Yedic Aryans had long 
migrated from the northern cradle of their race, and were 
settled in the part of India which lies between the Indus 
and the Saraswati. M. de Saint-Martin has identified most 
of the seven rivers mentioned in the Yedas as those of the 
Punjaub. Their enemies the Dasyus (literally " Robbers/ 
a dark race, and probably the aborigines of the country, 
still infested their borders. They were given to agriculture, 
and used ploughs and carts drawn by oxen. They had roads, 
and caravanserais at distances along the roads. Metals were 
in common use, and gold coins called Nishkas were cir- 



culated. Gambling was a prevailing vice ; several hymns 
alluding to it and deploring its results with those of intoxi 
cation. Women were not shut up in Zenanas, but appeared 
in public drawn in chariots, and are spoken of with tender 
affection. There is no evidence of the existence of castes 
at this earliest period, but they appear in the time of the 
Yajur-Yeda. Trade was already flourishing. In the Rig- 
Yeda it is said that " Merchants desirous of gain crowd the 
great waters with their ships/ Kings, and wealthy men, 
were splendid in their habits, and the natural treasures of 
India were all discovered and used. Gold and gems were 
plentiful. Swift horses were highly estimated ; the most 
precious of all sacrifices to the gods being the Aswamedha, 
or sacrifice of a horse. Elephants were tamed and greatly 
cherished ; the God Indra being described in the Rig- Veda 
as invoked for their protection. 

The religion of these Aryans of the Yedic times is a subject 
far too large and complicated to be here properly treated. 
Some of the passages of the sacred hymns throwing light 
upon it have been quoted in this volume in the preceding 
Essays. Our present author has drawn together a number 
of extracts from various translations, enabling the reader 
to form considerable acquaintance with the curious variety 
of incipient theologies and nascent philosophies which are 
bound up together even in the first and oldest Yeda. The 
prevailing principle seems to be, that while the Nature- 
gods, the Sky, Heaven, Fire, the Sun, the Dawn, etc., are 
all separately adored, the particular god who is invoked 
in any hymn is, for the time being, nearly always identi 
fied as supreme and universal. One god has many names, 
and sometimes bears the name of another god ; metaphysical 
ideas are deified ; and, in a very prominent manner, Agni 
(or common domestic fire) is treated as the earthly re 
presentative of the Sun. Noble psalms of praise, and 


touching entreaties for the forgiveness of sins, are made 
to these beings when contemplated as supreme ; but the 
whole system is evidently as yet inchoate and in a fluid 
state. We cannot but surmise that, if at that period a 
Zoroaster or Moses or Buddha had been born in the Pun- 
jaub, he would have seized on the yet vague aspirations of 
his countrymen, and moulded them into a defined creed. But 
Brahminism was then, and has ever since been, a religion 
(perhaps the only religion in the world), not tracing its 
origin to one mediatorial prophet-soul. Everywhere else in 
East and West we find faith clinging to some one great 
name, some man or demi-god to whom weaker mortals look 
and cry, " Thy God shall be our God : what thou hast seen, 
that can we take on thy assurance ; " some Moses who has 
seen Jehovah on the mount of vision, and the reflected glory 
of whose face suffices to convince the herd. Brahminism 
has had a host of major and minor prophets, during its five 
and thirty centuries of sway, from the old Rishis who wrote 
the Rig- Veda to their followers who added the Upanishads 
and Dharma Sastras, and the modern Brahmins who write 
nothing at all. But it has had no Zoroaster, no Moses, no 

The modifications which the early Yedic faith underwent 
in the course of ages offers a study no less difficult than its 
original form ; or rather formlessness. Not a trace of the 
Trimurti of Brahma, Seeva, and Vishnu, which now occupies 
the summit of the Hindoo pantheon, can be found for ages 
after the Vedic period, and the whole gross and hideous 
mythology of later times was then unborn. 

Taking these slight clues in hand the reader cannot fail to 
be interested in the passages selected by Mrs. Manning, as 
displaying the moral and philosophic feelings and thoughts 
of the authors of the most ancient Vedas. These authors, 
it appears, were seven, or (on better authority, according to 


Max M tiller) eight poets, called Rislm. The families of these 
poets were in after-times all registered, and became the de 
positaries of the eight Mandalas or books, into which the 
collection of hymns was divided. The most interesting of 
these Rishis were two, to whose lives and doings constant 
reference in after-times was made, namely Yasishta and 
Yiswamitra. Strange to say, here almost in the earliest 
glimpse of human religion we find the representatives of 
the Priest and of the Prophet. Yasishta is the author of the 
most touching hymns in the Yedas ; or as the Hindoos 
would express it he is the Seer to whom they were divinely 
communicated. " They are," says Mrs. Manning, " simple 
genuine utterances, confessing sin, and yearning after an 
unknown God." Yiswamitra, on the other hand, was a 
powerful soldier, the originator of the great religious cere 
monies and the composer of psalms of the cursing order : 
" May the vile wretch who hates us fall ! May his breath 
of life depart ! As the tree suffers from the axe, as the 
flower is cut off, as the cauldron, leaking, scatters foam, so 
may mine enemy perish ! " L 

So important were these two Rishis that their names 
became typical in Hindoo story, and re-appear as living per 
sonages long ages after the date of the Yedas. In the Rama- 
yana each of them plays an important and characteristic 
part, much as the names of Isaiah and Daniel were revived 
in writings supposed to carry on their ideas and sentiments. 

In reviewing Mrs. Manning s quotations, the difficulty 
must not be forgotten of obtaining anything like a veritable 
translation of a single sentence of an ancient book. Two 
errors constantly beset all efforts to attain such an end. 
One is the production of a mere cloud of words, each having 
perhaps some pretension to be the best known rendering 
of the original, but forming altogether in their syntax 

1 Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, vol. i. p. 372. 


something extremely like nonsense. Such translations the 
English reader very properly declines to accept as the preg 
nant sentences which have held their place as inspired 
oracles among civilized nations for thousands of years. The 
other error is the rendering of the ancient book, not only into 
the words, but into the thoughts of modern Europe, so that we 
possess in the supposed translation, not what an Eastern poet 
said thirty centuries ago, but what an Englishman would 
say for him if set down with the heads of his subject 
dictated. This last error was more common among the 
older generation of scholars than the present, and few things 
are more mortifying to the humble student who has built 
up his theories of ancient religion and morality on the sup 
posed fidelity of their translations than to find the ground 
taken from under him by a new translator who assures him 
that the text in question is a mere Christian paraphrase of 
the original, and that there is nothing in the Sanskrit or Zend 
to warrant his deductions. For an example of this sort of 
thing we have 110 need to go beyond the famous Gayatri, or 
holiest text of the Yedas, in the third Mandala of the Big- 
Veda, a verse specially interesting, as it has been repeated 
by millions of pious Hindoos every morning for at least 
three thousand years. It was translated by Sir William 
Jones thus : " Let us adore the supremacy of that Divine 
Sun, the Godhead, who illuminates all, who recreates all, 
from whom all proceed, to whom all must return ; whom we 
invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress 
towards His holy seat." l Our present authoress, follow 
ing (doubtless correctly) the greater accuracy of Professor 
Wilson, 2 gives us this magnificent prayer reduced to the 
following distressing dimensions : " We meditate on that 
desirable light of the divine Savitri (the Sun- God), who 
influences our pious rites " ! 

1 Works, vol. xiii. p. 367. 2 Works, vol. xiii. p. 3C7. 


The secret of the rise and progress of the priesthood in 
India, till it culminated in the monstrous usurpation of the 
Brahmins of recent ages, is a problem full of interest, 
and not devoid of instruction even for us in England 
in the nineteenth century. Nothing can be more anti- 
historical than the notion of Yoltaire and his compeers 
that the various priesthoods of Heathendom, the bonzes, 
talapoins, and Druids, whom he so delighted to ridicule and 
abuse, were thoroughly wide-awake sceptics, wholly free 
from the superstitions of their flocks and playing upon them 
with conscious hypocrisy. Common sense shows us that 
even the foremost men of each age and country have their 
minds so imbued and dyed with the belief and sentiments 
among which they have been brought up that it is at most 
only a question of a few shades lighter or darker between 
them and their contemporaries and compatriots. The exer 
cise of the priestly office tends probably in a greater degree 
than that of any other profession to impress the character, 
and create a new type for itself. But the priestly mind so 
moulded, is the reverse of a sceptical one. It was because 
the French abbes were so little like priests, and so much 
like men of the world, that they shrugged their shoulders 
at the Mass. Human nature, ecclesiastical or otherwise, 
leads men to magnify, not to disparage, their own func 
tions. " Nothing like leather/ cries the shoemaker ; and 
it would be marvellous indeed if the individual who is 
recognized by others as exercising the highest of all pos 
sible offices, even that of an Ambassador of Heaven, should 
make light of his mission. St. Paul thought it was 
actually a logical argument to prove immortality, that 
" if the dead rise not, then are we of all men the most 
miserable." Every minister of religion must similarly feel 
driven to believe that the faith to which his whole life 
is devoted is true, or else he is of all men most silly ; 


instead of (as lie constantly affirms) all men the only one 
truly wise. 

The Brahmins were then undoubtedly men who believed 
in themselves, their gods, and their office. But such genuine 
faith by no means excluded an equally clear confidence in 
the utility of judicious appeals to the hopes and fears of their 
disciples, entailing the usual amount of impudent assertion 
of special Divine favour, and superstitious reliance on magi 
cal ceremonies. Here in the very dawn of the world we 
find the two leading features of priestcraft fully marked 
already. The priest places himself as the indispensable 
mediator between the layman and the Deity ; and his power 
to influence the gods is exercised through the medium 
of sacramental rites, to which he affirms that he alone can 
give efficacy. 

Among the earliest functions of the Indian priestly tribe 
was that of Purohita or house-priest attached to a princely 
household. An old Aryan, like an old Israelite, thought 
that good fortune would surely befall him if he could 
but have " a Levite to be his priest " ; and the Hindoo 
Levite was in no way slow to impress on him the truth 
of such a conviction. Accordingly the Rishi Yamadeva 
says (p. 70) : 

The king before whom there walks a priest lives well established in 
his own house ; to him the earth yields for ever, and before him the 
people bow of their own accord. Unopposed he conquers treasures. 
The gods protect him. 

Threats against recalcitrants who would not pay priestly 
dues were of corresponding strength. In the Rig- Veda, x. 
160, a wealthy man who offers no libation is " grasped in the 
fist by Indra and slain." Complaints of " niggards " and 
" men who give nothing " are as common as in the addresses 
of Irish parish priests from their altars. If a wicked king 
eat a Brahmin s cow he is assured he will find the beef 


poisonous. " The priest s tongue is a bow-string, his voice 
is a barb, and his wind-pipe is an arrow-point smeared with 
fire." In the Atharva-Yeda (v. 18), it is declared that, 
" Whenever a king fancying himself mighty seeks to devour 
a Brahmin, his kingdom is broken up. Ruin overflows it as 
water swamps a leaky boat." Highly edifying tales of kings 
who gave their priests fabulous bribes of thousands of girls 
and tens of thousands of elephants, and were divinely re 
warded accordingly, are likewise plentiful. The last chapter 
of the Aitareya Brahmana tells us that, " The gods do not 
eat the food of a king who keeps no house-priest. Even 
when not intending to make a sacrifice, a king should ap 
point a house-priest." JSTor is it only in purse that the king 
has to pay for the spiritual advantages, but also in person. 
One part of the ceremony of appointing a house-priest re 
quires that the king wash the holy man s feet : doubtless 
a wholesome exercise of humility wherewith to commence 
future relations. 

But the Brahmins evidentty placed their grand reliance, 
beyond what threats and promises could afford them, on the 
influence to be obtained through the use of an elaborate 
and splendid cultus. The principle in human nature which 
leads us to feel attachment for whatever costs us much, 
has been doubtless understood by the founders of all religions. 
How much of the Jews devotion to their faith has been due, 
not only to its purity and grandeur, but also to the sharpness 
of the impression ploughed into their minds during thirty 
centuries by the perpetual repetition of the Mosaic feasts 
and ceremonies, it would be impossible to say. As one 
of the ablest living Jews, Philipssohn, has remarked, these 
rites built up the nation into a citadel, wherein the truth 
of the Divine Unity was lodged, to be preserved for ever 
as in the fortress of the human race. 

And to the natural influence of ceremonies on the minds 


of the men who share in their performance, the Brahmins 
added the wildest belief in their efficacy as celestial machinery 
capable of compelling the Deity. Few weaknesses of human 
nature afford a more curious study than this, the all but 
ubiquitous belief in the efficacy of magic ceremonies, as 
contradistinguished from spiritual prayer. That a man, 
himself capable of being moved by the entreaty of his 
children, should believe that his Creator may be touched 
by his own imploring cry is natural and obvious. But 
that the same man, who would only be vexed by the 
performance before him of unmeaning and wearisome cere 
monial antics, should suppose that a higher being than 
himself takes especial delight in them, and becomes through 
their means favourable to the antic-maker s wishes, this is 
truly paradoxical. Yet the belief seems almost ineradicable ! 
In vain for three thousand years have the world s greatest 
prophets denounced it. Isaiah and Micah might as well 
have held their peace for all the attention which Europe 
or Asia have paid to their arguments. At this very hour, 
a not inconsiderable section of the national church of this 
Protestant country labours with might and main to revive 
the faith in the magical efficacy of one class of such ob 
servances ; and to send us back from beautiful symbols of 
self-abnegation and self-consecration to the heathenism of 
u feeding on a sacrifice," precisely as if no one had ever 
asked, " Of what avail your sacrifices ? Cease to do evil. 
Learn to do well." 

In no religion does the notion of formal sacrifice seem 
to have reached a greater height of absurdity than in 
Brahminism. Southey s Curse of Kehama" has rendered 
some notion of it familiar to us. "He who knows the proper 
application of sacrifice," says Haug, " is in fact considered 
as the real master of the world, for any desire he can enter 
tain may be thus gratified. The Yajna (sacrifice) taken as 


a whole is looked on as a machine every piece of which 
must tally with another ; or as a staircase by which one may 
ascend to heaven. It exists from eternity. The creation 
of the world is the fruit of sacrifice." This wonder-working 
sacrifice is, alas ! all the time, not a grand act of devotion 
or self-immolation, but simply the accurate performance of 
a complicated ritual observance involving in one case the 
slaughter of a horse, and in another the preparation and 
drinking of the juice of a particular herb. In the fifth 
chapter of her book, Mrs. Manning has given us very curious 
details of the forms belonging to the most interesting of 
these rites, the Soma-sacrifice, accompanied by a plan of 
the hall or inclosure prepared for its celebration. Her in 
formation is derived from Dr. Haug, who actually induced 
a Srotriya Brahmin, properly qualified by "Apostolic 
succession," to rehearse the whole ceremony for his edifi 
cation in a secluded corner of his own premises of course 
not without a suitable "consideration," though we presume 
a lesser one than in the good old time when, we are told, 
the honoraire of the Hotri, or celebrant, was a fee of one 
hundred and twelve cows. Nothing was ever devised more 
intricate than these rites with their innumerable little 
fires and seats and posts, and processions up and down and 
round about. The shortest period expended in their per 
formance is five days, and we are informed that they may 
last a thousand years. The most curious point about the 
whole ceremony however is one which I wish that Mrs. 
Manning had brought out with greater distinctness. It is 
that it includes both a Baptism and a Eucharist ; a rite 
intended to signify Regeneration, and a rite consisting in 
" feeding on a sacrifice " ; and drinking a liquid which is 
itself frequently described as a god, and which receives 

The baptismal part of the ceremony, Mrs. Manning says, 


was apparently suggested by " a feeling nearly akin to belief 
in original sin " : 

The gods, and especially Vishnu and Agni (fire), are invoked to come 
to the offering with the Diksha. Diksh&, we are told, means "a new 
birth." Agni as fire, and Vishnu as the sun, are invoked to cleanse 
the sacrificer. The worshipper is then covered up in a cloth, on the 
outside of which is placed the skin of a black antelope ; and after a 
certain time has elapsed and specified prayers have been recited, the 
New Birth is considered to have been accomplished, and the regener 
ated man descends to bathe. 

As tbe proper nourisbment of a new-born cbild is milk, 
the regenerated sacrificer is, after baptism, made to drink 
milk by the aid of a special spoon. After many more 
tedious operations, he is prepared for the great ceremony 
of the fifth day, when the Soma is consecrated by the seven 
assistant priests, and drunk by them and the sacrificer at 
morning, midday and evening. Our authoress has given 
us a drawing of the plant from which the Soma juice is 
crushed, and we are informed in a note, that it is the As- 
clepias Adda of Roxburgh, now more commonly called the 
Sarcostema Yiminalis, or Sarcostema Brevistigma. It has 
hardly perceptible leaves, small sweet white flowers, and 
yields a pure milky juice of an acid flavour in great abundance. 
It grows on the hills of the Punjaub and the Coromandel 
coast ; but to make it sacrificially efficacious, it must, like 
the mandrake, be " plucked by night," by moonlight, and 
torn up by the roots, not cut down. When so gathered 
it must be carried on a cart drawn by two he-goats. The 
Soma thus obtained is much more in the Brahmin theology 
than a mere object of sacrifice or symbol. All other things 
connected with sacrifice, the horn, the post, the kettle, 
and even the ladle, are all praised in extravagant terms 
as sacred ; but the Soma alone " becomes an independent 
deity. The beverage is divine ; it purifies, it is a water of 


life, it gives health and immortality." Muir has translated 
a hymn concerning it from the Big-Yeda, viii. 88 : 

"We ve quaffed the Soma bright, 

And are immortal grown ; 
We ve entered into light, 

And all the gods have known. 
What mortal now can harm, 

Or foeman vex us more ? 
Through thee beyond alarm, 

Immortal God ! we soar. 

I have discussed in a preceding essay the obscure question 
of the nature of the original sacred plant for which the 
Brahmins seem to have substituted the Asclepias. The juice 
of the latter does not appear to be intoxicating, as the true 
Soma must undoubtedly have been. 

The third means by which the Brahmins assured their 
power was also not without significance. They did not 
approve of " secular education." Like M. Dupanloup, they 
desired that the young should be brought up very literally 
"aux genoux de Teglise." " Godless Colleges" were un 
heard of in Ancient India. The laborious care with which 
all students were affiliated to " spiritual fathers," and in 
structed by them in the duty of ordering themselves lowly 
and reverently to pastors and masters, is extremely clear. 
There never was, and never could be, a " Young India," till 
English rule had left space for the growth of so portentous 
a plant. Every youthful Brahmin was required to live 
twelve years with his Brahmin tutor, called his Guroo, 
and was permitted to spend forty-eight years, if he pleased, 
as a student. The lessons consisted mainly in the ac 
quirement of the holy verses orally and by heart. There 
were also " Parishads " or universities for older students ; 
institutions whose fame still lingers in the north-west of 


I now proceed to offer, following our authoress s guidance, 
a brief synopsis of Sanskrit literature. 

At the head of all, and always assigned by far the highest 
honours, are the Four Yedas. 

1. The Rig- Veda, the most ancient and sacred of all 
Sanskrit books. It consists of all the oldest hymns. 

2. The Sama- Veda. This book consists of hymns, nearly 
all of which are also to be found in the Big- Yeda, but are 
here arranged in order to be chaunted by the priests. 

3. The Yafur- Veda consists of various rituals and liturgies. 
The whole of this Yeda is considerably more recent than the 
two former. As already remarked, the institution of caste 
first appears in it. The Yajur-Yeda is itself of two distinct 
epochs the older portion is called the Black, and the latter 
the White Yajur-Yeda. As the sacrificial Yeda (as its name 
imports), it obtains great respect, and is spoken of by some 
of the commentators as superior to all the other Yedas ; just 
as the Book of Leviticus might have been perhaps regarded 
by a Babbin as more important than the Psalrns. 

4. The Atharva- Veda, consisting of both hymns and prose 
pieces, belonging to a later age and marked by a peculiarly 
servile and cringing spirit. 

Added to the Sanhita or hymns which it contains, each 
Yeda has a portion called its Brahrnana. 

The Aitareya Brahmana, belonging to the Big- Yeda, con 
sists of eight books of prayers, proper for the Soma sacrifice ; 
and narrations connected with it and other sacrifices. 

The Sama-Yeda has eight Brahmanas attached to it ; but 
their contents are not fully known. They appear to refer to 
various incantations. 

The Satapatha Brahmana belongs to the "White or later 
Yajur-Yeda. It describes sundry pastoral festivals and cere 
monies, especially those of the full moon. The most im 
portant portion, however, consists of strange speculations on 


the origin of things. Some of these are wild in the extreme. 
" Prajapati," for instance, the source of all created things, is 
himself described as the seven Rishis in one person ; while 
other notions about sin, death, and immortality, are to us 
quite inexplicable. In this Brahmana we find many allusions 
to Manu, the originator of all worship ; the ancestor of the 
Aryan Hindoos ; the original MAN, from whom the Sanskrit* 
and our own word for a human being, is derived. The 
German Mannus, the ancestor of the Teutons, can hardly fail 
to be identified with this mythological patriarch of the whole 
Aryan family. 

Again, be} r ond the four Yedas and their Brahmanas, the 
next order of compositions are mystic writings called Aran- 
yakas and TTpanishads, supposed to be supplementary to the 
former scriptures. One of these, the Brihad Amnydka y con 
tains a passage so curious that I cannot pass it over. It is 
in the form of a dialogue between a Brahmin and his wife. 
The wife asks : 

" What my lord knoweth of immortality may he tell me ? " 
Yajnavalkya replied : " Thou, who art truly dear to me, thou speakest 
dear words. Sit down. I will explain it to thee. ... A husband is 
loved, not because we love the husband, but because we love in him the 
Divine Spirit. A wife is loved, not because we love her, but because 
we love in her the Divine Spirit. ... It is with us when we enter the 
Divine Spirit, as if a lump of salt was thrown into the sea. It cannot 
be taken out again. The water becomes salt, but the salt disappears. 
When we have passed away, there is no longer any name. This I tell 
thee, my wife." 

Maitriyi said : " My lord, thou hast bewildered me, saying that there 
is no longer any name, when we have passed away." 

The philosophic husband replies to this feminine " longing 
after immortality" by observing that what he has told her is 
"sufficient to the highest knowledge/ and that as the Divine 
Self is all in all, there cannot be any other immortality for 
man than that of the lump of salt. " Having said this, 


Yajnavalkya left his wife for ever and went into the solitude 
of the forests." A very logical conclusion ! Other people 
beside the poor puzzled wife (our authoress observes) were 
dissatisfied as time went on with the salt theory of existence, 
and the doctrine of transmigration was projected out of their 
aspirations, till it became at last a portion of the national 
creed, in whose earlier form it had no place. " A living 
dog," said the Jew, " is better than a dead lion." " It is 
better to live an individual existence," said the heart of 
Hindoo humanity, " even as a snake or a rat, than to be 
absorbed and lost in Deity like the lump of salt in the 

Beside the Aranyakas, and of the same character with 
them, are the Upanishads, which are the portion of Sanskrit 
literature chiefly studied by modern Hindoos, and possessed 
of the greatest philosophical interest. The word Upanishad 
is supposed to mean " secret," and the books bearing that 
name are treatises attempting to solve the great secrets of the 
universe ; the nature of God, and of the soul, and the history 
of creation. They are somewhat numerous, and were com 
posed by various independent thinkers at different times. 
The writers names are never mentioned. " They appear," 
says Mrs. Manning, " to have been possessed by an ardent 
spirit of aspiration of which Sanskrit religious literature is 
the result and the exponent." 

Many of the Upanishads have been translated into English, 
and contain some of the best known expressions of Hindoo 
piety. In one of them, the Tahimkam Upanishad, the fol 
lowing fine thoughts concerning the nature of God are to be 
found : 

Know that that which does not see by the eye, but by which the eyes 
see is Brahma. 

Know that that which does not hear by the ear, but by which the 
ears hear is Brahma. 


Know that that which does not breathe by breath, but that by which 
breath is breathed is Brahma. 

.... By him who thinks that Brahma is not comprehended, by 
him He is comprehended. 

He who thinks that Brahma is comprehended, he does not know Him. 

Another Upanisliad has the acute observation : " He who 
has reverence acquires faith. The reverent alone possesses 
faith. He who can control his passions possesses reverence." 

After giving us a sketch of the Vedas, the Aranyakas, and 
Upanishads, of which the above is an epitome, Mrs. Manning 
proceeds with great clearness and ability to draw the outlines 
of the Hindoo systems of philosophy. Into the rarefied air of 
these acute speculations we need not ascend very far. The 
underlying conception of all was the existence of a Supreme 
Soul (variously called Brahma, Brihaspati, Viswakarman, 
Atman, Parabrahm, and Iswara), and that He is the only 
reality, all else being perishable and delusive. More or less 
personality is attributed to this Supreme Soul in different 
systems. The metempsychosis, which was unknown to the 
Hishis of the Yedas, here occupies a prominent place in 
all speculations, and the means of escape from perpetual 
transformation by absorption in the Supreme Soul is the 
practical aim of every philosophy. 

There are six recognized systems, or Darsanas, of Hindoo 
philosophy. The first is the Sankhya system, taught by 
Ivapila. Its principal doctrine is, that rest from transmi 
gration is to be obtained by true knowledge, and that 
true knowledge consists in regarding man and the world 
as altogether worthless and perishable. Kapila added little 
or nothing about the eternal Reality behind these transitory 
things, and this (not unimportant!) portion of the scheme 
was completed by Patanjali, forming the second or Yoga 
system of philosophy. Patanjali s four chapters are ap 
pended in the best manuscripts to the Sutras (or leaves) of 


Kapila; and form together the work called Sankhyapra- 

The third philosophic system is the Nyayi of Gotama, which 
again was supplemented by the Vaiseshika or fourth system 
of Kanada. These two Darsanas both occupy themselves 
with elaborate investigations into the mental constitution of 
man and the laws of logic, as means for the attainment of 
true knowledge. Lastly, the fifth and sixth systems are 
called the Purva Mimansa and the Uttara Mimansa] the 
first originated by Jaimini, and the second by the eminent 
sage Yyasa, whose name we find Indian Brahmos of the 
present day associating with the Western prophets and 
teachers, for whom they desire to express the greatest re 
spect. It is this last system, the Uttara Mimansa of Yyasa, 
to which the title of Vedanta, familiar to English ears, is 
applied ; the word meaning " the ultimate aim of the Yedas." 
All the other systems of philosophy recognize the Yedas as 
sacred, but the two Mimansas treat them as absolute revel 
ation, and are in fact commentaries and interpretations of 
their earlier and later portions. "The Yedanta," says our 
authoress, " simply teaches that the universe emanates in 
successive developments from Brahma or Paramatman, the 
Supreme Soul ; that man s soul is identical in origin with 
the Supreme Soul ; and that liberation from transmigration 
will be obtained so soon as man knows his soul to be one with 
the Supreme Soul." The Yedanta system represents the 
religion of Hindoo philosophy, or rather the religion of 
philosophers. " To suppose that men who accepted the 
Sankhya or Nyaya systems would therefore take no interest 
in the Yedanta would be somewhat like supposing that if 
a man studied Aristotle he would necessarily despise the 
Psalms." The great Hindoo theologian Sankara Acharya, 
of whose poem, the Atma-Bodha, Mrs. Manning proceeds 
to give an account, was an enthusiastic Yedantist. As a 



glimpse of the ocean of uncertain chronology on which we 
are sailing, we may remark that the age of this teacher is 
placed by tradition at about 200 B.C., and that H. H. Wilson 
brings him down to the eighth or ninth century A.D. 

Before quitting the subject of Hindoo religious philo 
sophy, our authoress is obliged to interpolate a notice of a 
most remarkable work the Bhagamd Gita whose assigned 
place is an episode of the great epic poem, the Maha- 
bharata; but whose purport is wholly religious and philo 
sophical. The effect of the interpolation of such a treatise 
into the middle of the heroic tale is, to our western 
feeling, not a little grotesque ; and much as if a chapter 
of Thomas Aquinas had got itself wedged into the "Nibe- 
lungen Lied," or the opening of Hooker s "Ecclesiastical 
Polity" were to be found in the middle of the "Faerie 
Queen." The story of the Mahabharata has conducted 
us to the eve of a tremendous battle. Two armies are 
drawn up in array, the trumpet sounds for the charge, 
and the combatants rush half-way to meet each other. At 
this appropriate moment Arjuna, the hero, bids Krishna, his 
divine charioteer, stop and discuss with him the mysteries 
of the universe, through eighteen chapters, terminating in 
a grand solution of the to us all too familiar controversy 
of Faith versus Works ! 

Absurd as is this mise en scene, the poem in question 
contains some of the noblest thoughts to be found in any 
language. It has long been known by means of Wilkins 
translation to that rather small section of " general readers " 
who peruse Eastern books. There are to be found in it such 
passages as the following : 

A man attains perfection by being satisfied with his own office, and 
worshipping Him from whom all things have their origin. Better 
to perform one s own duty, though it be devoid of excellence, than 
to do well the duty of another. Krishna says : " This is a kingly 


science and a kingly mystery. All this universe has been created by 
me. All things exist in me. I am the father, mother, sustainer of 
this universe. Even those who worship other gods worship me. . . . 
I am the same to all beings. Even those who are born in sin, even 
women and Sudras take the highest path if they come to me. 

The eleventh chapter contains a very remarkable scene, 
in which Krishna, at Arjuna s entreaty, shows himself in 
his proper form : 

Gifted with many mouths arid eyes, with many wonderful appear 
ances, with many divine ornaments, holding many celestial weapons, 
wearing celestial wreaths and robes, anointed with celestial perfumes, 
the all-miraculous infinite Deity with his face turned in all directions ! 
If the light of a thousand suns were to break forth in the sky at the 
same time, it would be similar to the brilliance of that mighty One. 

Those amongst us who feel disposed to despise such a 
vision as evidence of heathenish conceptions of Deity may 
perhaps do well to remember that the Hebrews, even while 
they asserted that "no man could see God and live," yet 
believed that the Seventy Elders on the Mount had " seen 
the God of Israel," " as it were a jasper and a sardine 
stone," and with " the appearance of fire." 

The main drift of the whole Bhagavad Gita is to show 
that the philosophy which taught that liberation comes 
from knowledge, must yet be supplemented by obedience 
and virtue. 

Passing from both Yedas and philosophical Darsanas, we 
arrive at the Puranas, which belong to a still later age 
probably about the ninth century A.D. They were eighteen 
in number, and are, says Wilson, among the most popular 
works in the Sanskrit language. Feasts are regulated by 
them, and texts quoted from them have validity in civil as 
well as religious law. Yishnu, often identified with Brahma, 
is here the ruling god ; and the means of propitiating him, 
or becoming united with him, occupy a large portion of the 
contents of the Puranas. 


Next below the Puranas come the Tantras, which appear 
to concern themselves with mystical and debasing rites. 
While the Puranas are used by the educated classes, the 
Tantras are " patronized by the less respectable members 
of Hindoo society." 

A very important class of books now comes into view, the 
Dliarma Sastras or law-books of India. The first and chief 
of these is the celebrated Institutes of Menu, translated by 
Sir William Jones, and formerly assigned by Orientalists an 
antiquity of B.C. 1200, but now brought down to a much 
more recent date. The name of the book, says Mrs. Manning, 
is itself a kind of pious fraud, for the " laws " are merely the 
laws or customs of a school or association of Hindoos called 
the Manavas, who lived on the banks of the Saraswati, and 
were an energetic and prosperous people. Their system 
seems to have worked so well that it was adopted by other 
communities, and then the organizers announced it as a code 
given to men by their divine progenitor Manu, or Menu. 
They added also passages which assert the quasi divine claims 
of Brahmins, but a great deal of this portion of the Code 
seems to have existed only in theory, and never to have had 
practical validity. In Sanskrit plays and poems, where the 
real state of things is betrayed, weak and indigent Brahmins 
are not infrequent ; and Sudras are found to have political 
rights. The whole of the authoress s synopsis of this most 
curious work amply deserves study. Space can only be 
spared here to remark on one of its topics ; the regulations 
of domestic life. 

The condition of women in India seems to have constantly 
deteriorated since the Yedic ages. At the time of the 
Institutes of Menu it had reached a stage of absolute subjec 
tion, but had yet something worse to fall to, the abjection of 
the modern practice of incarceration for life, and death by 
suttee. "Day and night," say the Institutes (chap. ix. 


vv. 2, 3, etc.), " must women be held by their protectors in 
a state of dependence. Their fathers protect them in child 
hood, their husbands in youth, their sons in age. A woman 
is never fit for independence. . . . Women have no business 
with the texts of the Yedas. Having therefore no evidence 
of law and no knowledge of expiating tests, sinful women 
must be as foul as falsehood itself. . . . She who keeps in 
subjection to her lord her heart, her speech and her body 
shall attain his mansion in heaven. . . Even if a husband 
be devoid of good qualities or enamoured of another woman, 
yet must he be constantly revered as a god by a virtuous 
wife." The Code does not hint at the practice of widow- 
burning ; but by making the position of single women 
and widows absolutely unbearable, the ground was laid 
for the two great crimes of later ages against women, 
viz., infanticide and suttee. The stupendous selfishness of 
men, who were not content with reducing a woman, body 
and soul, to the adoring and unreasoning dependence of 
a dog during the life of her husband, but required her, 
after his death, to " emaciate her body, live on flowers, 
and perform harsh duties, till death/ led to these not un 
natural results. They were the most merciful mothers who 
put their female children out of a world which offered them 
no mercy j and perhaps not the most unmerciful Brahmins 
who urged the widows to terminate their miseries 011 the 
funeral pile. The way in which, while all this was going 
on, the great poets of the Ramayana and Mahabharata 7 and 
the dramatists of later days, continued to idealize women, 
and represent them as perfect angels of heroism and de 
votion, would be astonishing did we not remember that the 
same thing happened in Greece ; and that Sophocles drew 
Antigone, and Euripides, Alcestis, when the real "woman 
of the period " was either shut up in her gynakonitw, or 
came out of it only as one of the hetcerce. The man, as 


a poet, liked to imagine woman free and noble. The 
man, as a husband and citizen, was perfectly content to 
keep her a prisoner for life and to leave her to be 
burned to death with his corpse as her final reward and 

At the present day in India it is an ordinary thing for 
a lady to be born in the upstairs zenana, and never once to 
have trodden the earth, even of the most confined garden, 
before she is borne to her grave- What misery existence 
must be among a knot of women thus immured together 
with nothing but their loves and hatreds and jealousies to 
brood upon, is awful and piteous to think of. Every house 
in India, belonging to the higher classes, must be a convent 
peopled with Starrs and Saurins. That the whole population, 
male and female, should be physically and morally weak 
when their mothers have undergone for centuries such a 
regime, is inevitable. The Hindoos have spoiled the lives 
of their wives and daughters, and Nemesis has spoiled 
theirs, and made them the easy prey of their Saxon con 
querors, whose ancestors were naked savages when they 
were a splendid and cultured race, but whose women, even 
in those old days of Tacitus, were " thought to have in them 
somewhat of the Divinity." The marvel is not that Hindoos 
are what we find them, but that any race can have survived 
so long such a monstrous infraction of natural laws. Most 
marvellous of all is it, that Hindoo women with the "set 
of their brains," as we should think, turned to idiotcy 
through centuries of caged-up mothers, yet display, when 
rare occasions offer, no mean share of some of the higher 
forms of human intelligence. At this moment the Brahmos 
are congratulating themselves on the appearance of a Ben 
galee poetess who composes beautiful hymns suitable for 
theistic worship ; and Mr. Mill has borne testimony to his 
official experience in India of the extraordinary aptitude 


for government of such Hindoo princesses as have ruled as 
regents for their sons. " If," he says, " a Hindoo princi 
pality is strongly, vigilantly, and economically governed, 
if order is preserved without oppression, if cultivation is 
extending and the people prosperous, in three cases out of 
four that principality is under a woman s rule. This fact 
to me," he adds, " an entirely unexpected one I have 
collected from a long official knowledge of Hindoo govern 

After the Institutes of Menu come the Codes of Yajna- 
valkya and Pamsara. To all these are attributed the rank 
of Smriti or Divine Revelation. But (as has happened else 
where) infallible books were found ere long to need infallible 
interpretations ; and commentaries and digests of these in 
spired codes soon multiplied, and became almost as important 
as the codes themselves. Mrs. Manning gives some account 
of these, and then proceeds to write some singularly inter 
esting chapters on Hindoo Medicine, Astronomy, Grammar, 
and Architecture. With regret I must leave this part 
of her work aside as incapable of compression, and turn to 
her second volume, which is devoted to what may be called 
the secular literature of India, with a supplementary chapter 
on Commerce and Manufacture. 

The traveller who has familiarized himself with the streets 
of beautiful Florence and proceeds from thence to Pisa, is 
apt to feel somewhat confused as to identity of place. There 
is the same Arno, and a very similar Lung-Arno with rows 
of palaces. But the one city is lonely and strange and the 
other bright and full of vigorous life ; and between the two 
he feels as we do in a dream when we imagine we see a 
place or person and yet find them altogether other than 
we know them to be. Yery similar sensations must surely 
have been experienced by the European scholars who dis- 


covered the great Hindoo poems, and, like the Ancient 
Mariner, were the first 

that ever burst 
Into that silent sea. 

Here were all the forms of art to which they had been 
accustomed, and of which Greece was deemed the very 
creatrix. Here were long grand Epics, and here were 
noble dramas, and lyrics, and tales, and even fables, from 
which those of .ZEsop seemed borrowed. It was another and 
a complete cycle of literature ; yet, in each case, the resem 
blance was incomplete, the forms less perfect, the legends 
more wild and seemingly often unmeaning ; the unities 
more neglected. That one great miracle-age of Grecian art 
had not indeed repeated itself in India. Kalidasa could 
not take rank beside Sophocles any more than the Rishis 
of the Yedas could rank beside the Psalmists of Israel. But 
yet there was power, beauty, originality in the Sanskrit 
poems, such as almost constituted an equal wonder, falling, 
as they did spontaneously, into such closely corresponding 

The reader who will give the volume before us a perusal 
cannot, we think, fail to be amazed at the richness of imagi 
nation and the delicacy of natural sentiment displayed in 
the Hindoo poems. Unfortunately, the limited space of a 
review necessarily forbids even an attempt to convey those 
qualities, and the most which can be done here is to give 
a bare resume of the character of the work whose choice 
flowers Mrs. Manning has gathered into a splendid bouquet. 

The two poems which bear to Hindoo literature the re 
lation which the Odyssey and the Iliad do to that of Greece, 
and which have been almost equally prized by the nation 
to which they belong, are the Ramayana and the Maha- 
Iharata. The age of both is presumed to be considerably 
anterior to the Christian era ; and at all events to be earlier 


than that of the great Codes of Hindoo law. The Eamayana 
is a complete poem, composed by the poet Yalmiki. The 
Mahabharata is a vast piece composed at different times and 
by different authors, some before and some after the age of 
the Ramayana. The story narrated in the Ramayana, is 
that of the hero Rama, now worshipped in India as a god, 
and represented as one of the incarnations of Yishnu. He 
is described as the son of the King of Ayodya (the modern 
Oude), and is born, like most other heroes of fable, semi- 
miraculously. The adventures of Rama and his faithful 
wife Sita, are some of them touching, some absurd ; the chief 
being the carrying off of Sita by Ravana, the demon-King 
of Lanka, or Ceylon. To recover her, Rama enters into an 
alliance with the king of the monkeys and invades Ceylon. 
A bridge is formed of rocks (of course still in situ) over 
which Rama and his quadrumanous friends make their way 
and recover the dame, whose story has combined the mishaps 
of Proserpine with the destiny of Helen. Many parts of 
this poem, even in translation, are full of grace ; and the 
tenderness of parental and filial affection has hardly ever 
been more beautifully described. 

The Mahabharata is still larger than the Ramayana, con 
taining in its present form 100,000 stanzas. Its authorship 
is attributed to Yyasa, but, as mentioned above, it is un 
doubtedly the work of many hands. The quarrels of two 
great allied families form the staple of the story ; its name 
signifying "the great history of the descendants of Bharata." 
The heroes are the five brothers, Pandavas ; and the heroine 
is Drapaudi, a woman who is strangely represented as the 
wife of all five. This trait of manners is the more re 
markable as modern Brahminical law is entirely opposed to 
polyandry, and the Indian commentators are exceedingly 
troubled at the incident in their great national epic. The 
custom, however, still exists among the Buddhists of Thibet, 


and the tribe of Nairs in Southern India ; and its appearance 
in the Mahabharata proves the age of that great poem to 
have been prior to that of the Institutes of Menu and the 
other codes of Hindoo law. 

After a series of wars whose narrative is interrupted by 
many episodes (in one of which is the legend of a deluge), 
the Mahabharata closes in a peculiarly striking manner. 
The brothers Pandavas remain masters of the field, and 
kings of their native country, all the rival race being slain. 
But " leanness enters into their souls," and they set off, 
accompanied by Drapaudi and their dog, to walk to Mount 
Meru, where Indra s heaven rises among the summits of the 
Himalayas. They walk on in single file, till after long years 
Drapaudi sinks down and dies; and then each brother in 
succession falls, till the eldest remains alone ; the mysterious 
dog still following him. Indra now appears and offers to 
bear the hero in his chariot to heaven. He asks that his 
brothers and his wife may be taken there also. Indra tells 
him they have already reached heaven through the portals 
of the grave, and that he alone has been privileged to enter 
it wearing his fleshly form. Then Yudhishthira asks that his 
dog may accompany him. But Indra scornfully observes, 
"My heaven hath no place for dogs;" whereupon the hero 
says that " to abandon the faithful and devoted is an endless 

Yon poor creature, in fear and distress, hath trusted in my 

power to save it ; 
Not therefore for e en life itself will I break my plighted word. 

Fortunately the dog turns out to be Yama, the god of 
Death, who has ever followed his steps hitherto (an alle 
gory in the vein of Bunyan), and marvellously sets the 
hero free to accept Indra s invitation. But not even here 
do his trials end. He enters heaven, and seeks instantly 
for his wife and his brothers; but he is told they are in 


hell ! " Then to hell will I go also," cries the hero, like 
Mr. Mill, and thither he actually descends. But hell to 
the righteous is only Maya (delusion). He and his beloved 
ones are in paradise for ever. 

There is something to my thinking so perfectly Teutonic 
in all this, that I can hardly express my surprise at finding 
it in an Eastern book. The distinct ideas of heaven and 
hell, the nature of the trials offered to the hero, and his 
sense of duty to his dog, would all seem natural in a German 
story; but how strange a testimony do they bring to the 
essential unity of the Aryan mind, occurring, as they do, 
in a Sanskrit poem, to which we can attribute no later age 
than the Christian era ! 

The story of Harna and Sita is again treated in a third 
and minor poem of later date called the Raghuvansa, attri 
buted to Kalidasa, the great dramatic poet ; and besides this 
there are many other Kavyas or epics of less and lesser im 
portance. The subjects of most of them appear constantly 
to hover round one or other episode of the Eamayana or 

The Hindoo Drama was opened to Europeans nearly a 
century ago by Sir William Jones s translation of its master 
piece, " SakuntcUa" of which Goethe expressed the highest 
admiration. In 1827 Professor Wilson published "Select 
Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindoos," whose first play, 
the celebrated " Toy- Cart," affords some indications whereby 
to estimate the date of the golden age of the Indian drama. 
Buddhism still exists among the characters of the piece, but 
has lost its ascendancy, and Siva is the chief object of wor 
ship. These and other signs are believed to point to the 
fourth century of our era for the date of the dramas in ques 
tion ; while Kalidasa, the greatest of the succeeding Sanskrit 
dramatic poets, is held to have flourished about A.D. 500. 


Hindoo dramas are neither tragedies nor comedies. The 
grave and gay mingle in turn, but none of them end in 
death, either on the stage or behind the scenes ; and Eastern 
decorum shows itself in the prohibition of eating, kissing, 
or sleeping before the public. They are, in short, very much 
what they call themselves, " poems which can be seen." 
Stage scenery there seems to be none. The acts of the 
drama might not be less than five nor more than ten. In 
tervals too long to be imagined in the acts were understood 
to take place between them. Men and gods were made to 
speak Sanskrit ; women and slaves spoke Prakrit, a lan 
guage bearing to Sanskrit the relation of Italian to Latin. 
Married women having passed the age of beauty being in 
Hindoo imagination mere cumberers of the ground, cul 
tivated hetcerce appeared in India as in Greece, and the 
" Toy- Cart " presents us with its Aspasia. There are certain 
conventional characters on the Hindoo as on the classic and 
romantic stage; among them the Vita or parasite and the 
Vidushaka or buffoon. The number of existing Hindoo 
dramas is now small ; whether many have perished or few 
were ever composed is unknown. The " Toy-Cart " is 
by an unknown author. Three dramas are attributed to 
Kalidasa, and three more to another admired poet, Bhava- 
bhuti. " Sakuntala " appears to be recognized as the most 
beautiful ; but in it, as in all the rest, the use of supernatural 
machinery is so exorbitant that it is hard for the slow 
British imagination to keep sufncient pace with its trans 
itions to permit of much interest in its plot. Southey 
seems to have wonderfully realized this element of wild 
Hindoo fancy when he composed the " Curse of Kehama." 
Miracles, however, like the " Curse," or even the gigantic 
conception of Kehama multiplying himself into eight 
Kehamas and driving " self- multiplied " 

At once down all the roads of Padalon, 


may be conceived ; and the apparition in a fiery chariot which 
carries off Sakuntala admitted as legitimate stage practice. 
But when we are called on further to believe that the desper 
ately enamoured king Dushyanta, almost immediately after 
his marriage, miraculously forgets Sakuntala altogether, 
and snubs her when she presents herself at court, our sym 
pathy in the subsequent adventures of the heroine becomes 
languid, if not extinct. 

Several centuries later than the age of Kalidasa was 
written another Indian drama of an entirely different de 
scription. Its author was a poet named Krishna Misra, 
supposed to have lived in the twelfth century A.D., and 
the object of this work was the establishment of Yedanta 
doctrine. It is in fact a religious allegory, like the Holy 
War or Pilgrim s Progress ; its name signifies " The 
Rising of the Moon of Awakened Intellect," and the 
dramatis persona? are Delusion, the king, with his subjects 
Love, Anger, Avarice, etc., and his allies Hypocrisy, Self- 
importance and Materialism, and on the opposite side Reason 
with an army of Virtues. The struggle between the rival 
forces is sharp, but finally Tranquility enables Reason to 
harmonize with Revelation (consummation sought in other 
places besides India !), and thereupon the Moon of Awakened 
Intellect arises and shines. Our authoress has given a full 
and most curious account of this very remarkable piece, to 
which we recommend every admirer of glorious old Bunyan 
to refer. There is real wit in the Hindoo poet as in the 
Puritan tinker. Hypocrisy is represented as a Brahmin, 
and receives a message from his king as follows : 

Beloved Hypocrisy ! King Reason and his advisers have determined 
to revive Awakened Intellect, and are for this purpose sending Tran 
quility into holy places. This threatens destruction to all our kind, and 
it behoves you to be specially active and zealous. You are aware that 
no holy place on earth is equal to the city of Benares. Go then to 


Benares, and exert yourself to frustrate the devotions of the pious 
people there assembled. 

To this address Hypocrisy replies that he has done what is 
wanted at Benares so effectively already, that those who by 
day attend the holy rites are by night the greatest of sinners. 

Besides its Epics and its Dramas, Sanskrit literature boasts 
also of its Lyric poetry. One poem of this class called the 
" Messenger Church," attributed to Kalidasa, is greatly 
praised by Mrs. Manning. Another, also by Kalidasa, " The 
Seasons/ is spoken of in rapturous terms by Sir William 
Jones, and by its English and German translators. 

A more remarkable class of books, however, than the last 
is that of Hindoo Fables. India is indeed the proper home 
of the Fable. Between A.D. 531 and 599, the great col 
lection called the Panchatantra was translated into Pehlevi 
at the command of Nushirvan, King of Persia, under the 
name of Fables of Bidpai or Pilpay ; and it is chiefly to 
these that the common tales of our nurseries are traceable. 
What may have been the real age of the Panchatantra (or 
Five Sections) is uncertain ; it preceded at all events the 
collection of the Hitopadesa (Good Advice). Both sets of 
fables are much alike, and arranged in a similar framework ; 
namely, the instruction of a Brahmin to the sons of a king, 
who are entrusted to him for six months education in niti 
(politics). The lessons so bestowed, it must be owned, are 
somewhat Macchiavellian, and may be summarized, Mrs. 
Manning says, in the following simple doctrine : " Rogues, 
if cunning, succeed. Simpletons, though good and learned, 
fail. Good morals are allowed, however, to be good in them 
selves, and are to be preferred where no failure is risked." 

Lastly, there exists in India a mass of fictions of the class 
of the Arabian Nights, the most popular being " The Ocean 
of the Streams of Narrative," "Twenty-five Stories told by a 
Yetala," "Thirty-two Tales told by Images," and "Seventy- 


two Tales of a Parrot." So concludes the vast cycle of 
Sanskrit literature, having contributed to the library of 
mankind nearly every known form of composition, saving 
only a History. Neither ancient nor mediaeval India, so far 
as we know, ever had an Historian or even an Annalist ; and 
in the enormous mass of their relics we are left to pick out 
as best we may from internal evidence the chronology even 
of their greatest works. We know almost everything about 
their minds, their opinions, their laws, even their lightest 
fancies. We can reconstruct their whole existence probably 
with greater accuracy than we can picture the lives of our 
own ancestors in our own land a thousand years ago. But 
the sequence of events, the wars and conquests, the dynasties 
and revolutions which ordinarily fill for us the pages of the 
past are, in the case of India, almost a total blank. 

It must be confessed that the story of the Hindoo mind 
as revealed in Sanskrit literature, cannot be contemplated 
even in such a hasty review as the present, without a sense 
of sadness and regret. That early dawn of religion which 
breaks in the Yedas, instead of shining to the perfect 
day of rational faith, was followed only by fitful gleams 
of sunshine and cloud, and sank at last, as the ages went 
by, into the thick darkness of unredeemed idolatry. The 
one great reformation which alone ever broke the continuity 
of Brahmin ecclesiastical history, the rise and supremacy of 
Buddhism for a thousand years, passed away from India 
like a breeze over a field of corn ; and no record save a 
few old ruined topes remain to tell thereof. If we could 
conceive of Protestantism flourishing for yet twenty gener 
ations in England, and then being utterly swept off and 
forgotten, and Catholicism reinstated over the land, with 
only the mouldering dome of St. Paul s left to recall to the 
antiquary the schism of the past, then we should have an 


analogue of the marvellous story of the two great rival 
creeds of the East. 

But is there no lesson for us even if we cannot stretch 
imagination to such a catastrophe in the example of India s 
religious history ? What were the causes which led to the 
deterioration of that vast Established Church, which in the 
days of the Bhagavad Grita had teachers with the spirit of 
prophets and the piety of saints ? The answer seems unmis 
takable. Religion fell wholly out of secular hands into 
that of a priesthood, of the most powerful priesthood in the 
world ; and what did it do with it ? It accomplished pre 
cisely the end for which all priesthoods are for ever striving. 
It turned religion into a matter of rites and sacraments. Then 
symbols became idols, and formal observances were exalted 
above moral virtues ; and the India of to-day, with its three 
million gods, its hideous idols, and its gross and cruel rites, 
displays the outcome of the three millenniums of priestly 

It is indeed time that a new reformation should arise in 
India, capable of taking deeper root in human nature than 
Buddhism, with its sleeping deity and Nirvana paradise, 
was ever qualified to do. I rejoice to believe that we 
see the beginning of such a reformation in the noble work 
of Keshub Chunder Sen and the Brahmos of India. 




THE old Hebrew necromancers were said to obtain oracles 
by means of Teraphim. A Teraph was the decapitated head 
of a child, placed on a pillar and compelled by magic to 
reply to the questions of the sorcerer. Let us suppose, for 
the sake of illustration, that the legends of such enchant 
ments rest on some groundwork of fact ; and that it might 
be possible, by galvanism or similar agency, to make a 
human corpse speak, as a dead sheep may be made to bleat. 
Further, let us suppose that the Teraph only responded to 
inquiries regarding facts known to the owner of the head 
while living, and therefore (it may be imagined) impressed 
in some manner upon the brain to be operated on. 

In such a Teraph we should, I conceive, possess a fair 
representation of the mental part of human nature, as it 
is understood by a school of thinkers, considerable in all 
ages, but especially so at present. " The brain itself," ac 
cording to this doctrine, " the white and grey matter, such 
as we see and touch it, irrespective of any imaginary entity 
beside, performs the functions of Thought and Memory. To 
go beyond this all-sufficient brain, and assume that our con 
scious selves are distinct from it, and somewhat else beside 



the sum-total of its action, is to indulge an hypothesis un 
supported by a tittle of scientific evidence. Needless to add, 
the still further assumption, that the conscious self may 
possibly survive the dissolution of the brain, is absolutely 

It is my very ambitious hope to show, in the following 
pages, that, should physiology establish the fact that the 
brain performs all the functions which we have been wont 
to attribute to "Mind," that great discovery will stand 
alone, and will not determine, as supposed, the further 
steps of the argument; namely, that our conscious selves 
are nothing more than the sum of the action of our 
brains during life, and that there is no room to hope that 
they may survive their dissolution. 

I hope to show, not only that these conclusions do not 
necessarily flow from the premisses, but that, accepting the 
premisses, we may logically arrive at opposite conclusions. I 
hope to deduce, from the study of one class of cerebral phe 
nomena, a presumption of the separability of the conscious 
Self from the thinking brain ; and thus, while admitting 
that " Thought may be a function of Matter," demonstrate 
that the Self in each of us is not identifiable with that 
which, for want of a better word, we call " Matter." The 
immeasurable difference between such a remembering, lip- 
moving Teraph as we have supposed and a conscious Man 
indicates, as I conceive, the gulf leaped over by those who 
conclude that, if the brain can be proved to think, the case 
is closed against believers in the spirituality and immortality 
of our race. 

In brief, it is my aim to draw from such an easy and 
every-day psychological study as may be verified by every 
reader for himself, an argument for belief in the entire 
separability of the conscious self from its thinking organ, 
the physical brain. Whether we choose still to call the 


one " Spirit " and the other " Matter," or to confess that 
the definitions which our fathers gave to those terms have 
ceased to be valid in the light of modern science that 
"Matter " means only "a form of Force," and that " Spirit " 
is merely "an unmeaning term for an unknown thing" 
this verbal controversy will not in any way affect the drift 
of our argument. What we need to know is this : Can we 
face the real or supposed tendency of science to prove that 
" Thought is a Function of Matter," and yet logically retain 
faith in personal Immortality ? I maintain that we may 
accept that doctrine and draw from it an indirect pre 
sumption of immortality, afforded by the proof that the 
conscious self is not identifiable with that Matter which per 
forms the function of Thought, and of whose dissolution 
alone we have cognizance. 

My first task must be to describe the psychological facts 
from which our conclusions are to be drawn, and which seem 
in themselves sufficiently curious and interesting to deserve 
more study on their own account than they have yet received. 
Secondly, I shall simply quote Dr. Carpenter s physiological 
explanation of these facts. Lastly, I shall, as shortly as 
possible, endeavour to deduce from them that which appears 
to me to be their logical inference. 

The phenomena with which we are concerned have been 
often referred to by metaphysicians, Leibnitz and Sir ~W. 
Hamilton amongst others, under the names of "Latent 
Thought," and " Preconscious Activity of the Soul." Dr. 
Carpenter, who has discovered the physiological explanation 
of them, and reduced them to harmony with other pheno 
mena of the nervous system, has given to them the title of 
" Unconscious Cerebration " ; and to this name, as following 
in his steps, I shall in these pages adhere. It will probably 
serve our purpose best, in a popular paper like the present, 
to begin, not with any large generalizations of the subject, 


but with a few familiar and unmistakable instances of men 
tal work performed unconsciously. 

For example ; it is an every-day occurrence to most of 
us to forget a particular word, or a line of poetry, and to 
remember it some minutes or hours later, when we have 
ceased consciously to seek for it. We try, perhaps anxiously, 
at first to recover it, well aware that it lies somewhere hidden 
in our memory, but unable to seize it. As the saying is, we 
" ransack our brains for it," but failing to find it, we at last 
turn our attention to other matters. By and by, when, so 
far as consciousness goes, our whole minds are absorbed in 
a different topic, we exclaim, <( Eureka ! The word, or verse, 
is So and so/ So familiar is this phenomenon that we 
are accustomed in similar straits to say, " Never mind ; I 
shall remember the missing word by and by, when I am 
not thinking of it ; " and we deliberately turn away, not 
intending finally to abandon the pursuit, but precisely as 
if we were possessed of an obedient secretary or librarian, 
whom we could order to hunt up a missing document, or 
turn out a word in a dictionary, while we amused ourselves 
with something else. The more this very common pheno 
menon is studied, the more I think the observer of his own 
mental processes will be obliged to concede, that, so far as 
his own conscious Self is concerned, the research is made 
absolutely without him. He has neither pain nor pleasure, 
nor sense of labour in the task, any more than if it were 
performed by another person ; and his conscious Self is all 
the time suffering, enjoying, or labouring on totally different 

Another and more important phase of unconscious cere 
bration, is that wherein we find our mental work of any 
kind, a calculation, an essay, a tale, a composition of music, 
painting, or sculpture, arrange itself in order during an 
interval either of sleep or wakefulness, during which we had 


not consciously thought of it at all. Probably no one has ever 
written on a subject a little complicated, or otherwise en 
deavoured to think out a matter any way obscure, without 
perceiving next day that the thing has somehow taken a new 
form in his mind since he laid down his pen or his pencil 
after his first effort. It is as if a " Fairy Order " had come 
in the night and unravelled the tangled skeins of thought 
and laid them all neatly out on his table. I have said that 
this work is done for us either asleep or awake, but it seems 
to be accomplished most perfectly in the former state, when 
our unconsciousness of it is most complete. I am not now 
referring to the facts of somnambulism, of which I must 
speak hereafter, but of the regular " setting to rights " 
which happens normally to the healthiest brains, and with 
as much regularity as, in a well-appointed household, the 
chairs and tables are put in their places before the family 
come down to breakfast. 

Again there is the ordinary but most mysterious faculty 
possessed by most persons, of setting over-night a mental 
alarum- clock, and awaking, at will, at any unaccustomed 
hour out of dreamless sleep. Were we up and about our 
usual business all night without seeing or hearing a time 
piece, or looking out at the stars or the dawn, few of us 
could guess within two or three hours of the time. Or 
again, if we were asleep and dreaming with no intention 
of rising at a particular time, the lapse of hours would be 
unknown to us. The count of time in dreams is altogether 
different from that of our waking life, and we dream in a few 
seconds what seem to be the events of years. Nevertheless, 
under the conditions mentioned, of a sleep prefaced by a 
resolution to waken at a specified hour, we arrive at a know 
ledge of time unattainable to us either when awake or when 
sleeping without such prior resolution. 

Such are some of the more striking instances of uncon- 


scious cerebration. But the same power is obviously at work 
during at least half our lives in a way which attracts no 
attention only because it is so common. If we divide our 
actions into classes with reference to the "Will, we discover 
that they are of three kinds the Involuntary (such as the 
beating of the heart, digestion, etc.), the Yoluntary, and 
the Volitional. The difference between the two latter classes 
of actions is, that Voluntary motions are made by permission 
of the Will and can be immediately stopped by its exertion, 
but do not require its conscious activity. Volitional motions, 
on the contrary, require the direct exertion of Will. 

Now of these three classes of action it would appear that 
all Yoluntary acts, as we have defined them, are accom 
plished by Unconscious Cerebration. Let us analyze the act 
of Walking, for example. We intend to go here or there ; 
and in such matters " he who wills the end wills the means." 
But we do not deliberately think, "Now I shall move my 
right foot, now I shall put my left on such a spot." Some 
unseen guardian of our muscles manages all such details, 
and we go on our way, serenely unconscious (unless we 
chance to have the gout, or an ill-fitting boot) that we have 
any legs at all to be directed in the way they should go. 
If we chance to be tolerably familiar with the road, we take 
each turning instinctively, thinking all the time of some 
thing else, and carefully avoid puddles or collisions with 
fellow-passengers, without bestowing a thought on the sub 
ject. Similarly, as soon as we have acquired other arts 
beside walking, reading, sewing, writing, playing on an 
instrument, we soon learn to carry on the mechanical part 
of our tasks with no conscious exertion. We read aloud, 
taking in. the appearance and proper sound of each word 
and the punctuation of each sentence, and all the time we 
are not thinking of these matters, but of the argument of 
the author; or picturing the scene he describes; or, possibly, 


following a wholly different train of thought. Similarly in 
writing with " the pen of a ready writer " it would almost 
seem as if the pen itself took the business of forming the 
letters and dipping itself in the ink at proper intervals, so 
engrossed are we in the thoughts which we are trying to 
express. We unconsciously cerebrate that it will not answer 
to begin two consecutive sentences in the same way ; that we 
must introduce a query here or an ejaculation there, and close 
our paragraphs with a sonorous word and not with a pre 
position. All this we do not do of malice prepense, but 
because the well-tutored sprite whose business it is to look 
after our p s and q s, settles it for us as a clerk does the 
formal part of a merchant s correspondence. 

Music-playing, however, is of all others the most extra 
ordinary manifestation of the powers of unconscious cere 
bration. Here we seem not to have one slave but a dozen. 
Two different lines of hieroglyphics have to be read at once, 
and the right hand is to be guided to attend to one of them ? 
the left to another. All the ten fingers have their work 
assigned as quickly as they can move. The mind (or some 
thing which does duty as mind) interprets scores of A sharps 
and B flats and C naturals, into black ivory keys and white 
ones, crotchets and quavers and demi-semi- quavers, rests, 
and all the other mysteries of music. The feet are not idle, 
but have something to do with the pedals; and, if the 
instrument be a double-actioned harp, they have a task of 
pushings and pullings more difficult than that of the hands. 
And all this time the performer, the conscious performer, is 
in a seventh heaven of artistic rapture at the results of all 
this tremendous business; or perchance lost in a flirtation 
with the individual who turns the leaves of the music-book, 
and is justly persuaded she is giving him the whole of her 

Hitherto we have noticed the brain engaged in its more 


servile tasks of hunting up lost words, waking us at the 
proper hour, and carrying on the mechanical part of all our 
acts. But our Familiar is a great deal more than a walking 
dictionary, a housemaid, a valet de place, or a barrel-organ 
man. He is a novelist who can spin more romances than 
Dumas, a dramatist who composes more plays than ever did 
Lope de Vega, a painter who excels equally well in figures, 
landscapes, cattle, sea-pieces, smiling bits of genre and the 
most terrific conceptions of horror and torture. Of course, 
like other artists, he can only reproduce, develope, combine 
what he has actually experienced, or read, or heard of. But 
the enormous versatility and inexhaustible profusion with 
which he furnishes us with fresh pictures for our galleries, 
and new stories every night from his lending library, would 
be deemed the greatest of miracles, were it not the com 
monest of facts. A dull clod of a man, without an ounce 
of fancy in his conscious hours, lies down like a log at 
night, and lo ! he has got before him the village green 
where he played as a boy, and the apple-tree blossoms in 
his father s orchard, and his long-dead and half-forgotten 
mother smiles at him, and he hears her call him " her own 
little lad," and then he has a vague sense that this is 
strange, and a whole marvellous story is revealed to him of 
how his mother has been only supposed to be dead, but has 
been living in a distant country, and he feels happy and 
comforted. And then he wakes and wonders how he came 
to have such a dream ! Is he not right to wonder ? What 
is it who is it that wove the tapestry of such thoughts on 
the walls of his dark soul ? Addison says, " There is not 
a more painful act of the mind than that of invention. Yet 
in dreams it works with that care and activity that we are 
not sensible when the faculty is employed." L Such are the 
nightly miracles of Unconscious Cerebration. 

1 Spectator, 487. 


The laws which govern dreams are more than half un 
explained, but the most obvious of them singularly illustrate 
the nature of the processes of the unconscious brain-work 
which causes them. Much of the labour of our minds, both 
conscious and unconscious, consists in transmuting Senti 
ments into Ideas. Possessing a certain feeling, we ren 
der it into some intellectual shape more or less suitable. 
Loving a person we endow him with all lovable qualities ; 
hating him, we attribute to him all hateful ones. Out of 
the Sentiment of the Justice of God men first created the 
Ideas of a great Final Assize and a Day of Judgment. Out 
of the Sentiments of His originating power they constructed 
a Six Days Cosmogony. In the case of Insanity, when the 
power of judgment is lost, the disordered Sentiment almost 
invariably precedes the distracted Thought, and may be 
traced back to it beyond mistake; as for example in the 
common delusion of maniacs that they have been injured 
or plotted against by those persons for whom they happen 
to feel a morbid dislike. As our conscious brains are 
for ever at work of the kind, " giving to airy nothing " 
(or at least to what is merely subjective feeling) "a local 
habitation and a name," so our unconscious brains, after their 
wont, proceed on the same track during sleep. Our senti 
ments of love, hate, fear, anxiety, are each one of them the 
fertile source of whole series of illustrative dreams. Our 
bodily sensations of heat, cold, hunger, and suffocation, 
supply another series often full of the quaintest sugges 
tions, such as those of the poor gentleman who slept over 
a cheesemonger s shop, and dreamt he was shut up in a 
cheese to be eaten by rats ; and that of the lady whose hot 
bottle scorched her feet, and who imagined she was walking 
into Vesuvius. In all such dreams we find our brains with 
infinite play of fancy merely adding illustrations, like those 
of M. Dore, to the page of life which we have turned the 


day before, or to that which lies upon our beds as we 

Again, the small share occupied by the Moral Law in 
the dream world is a significant fact. So far as I have 
been able to learn, it is the rarest thing possible for any 
check of conscience to be felt in a dream, even by persons 
whose waking hours are profoundly imbued with moral feel 
ing. We commit in dreams acts for which we should weep 
tears of blood were they real, and yet never feel the slightest 
remorse. On the most trifling provocation we cram an 
offending urchin into a lion s cage (if we happen to have 
recently visited the Zoological Gardens), or we set fire to 
a house merely to warm ourselves with the blaze, and all 
the time feel no pang of compunction. The familiar check 
of waking hours, "I must not do it, because it would be 
unjust or unkind," never once seems to arrest us in the 
satisfaction of any whim which may blow about our way 
ward fancies in sleep. Nay, I think that if ever we do 
feel a sentiment like Repentance in dreams, it is not the 
legitimate sequel to the crime we have previously imagined, 
but a wave of feeling rolled on from the real sentiment 
experienced in former hours of consciousness. Our dream - 
! selves, like the Undines of German folk-lore, have no Souls, 
no Responsibility and no Hereafter. Of course this obser 
vation does not touch the fact that a person who in his 
conscious life has committed a great crime may be haunted 
with its hideous shadow in his sleep, and that Lady Macbeth 
may in vain try and wash the stain from her " little hand." 
It is the imaginary acts of sleeping fancy which are devoid 
of moral character. Now this immoral character of uncon 
scious cerebration precisely tallies with the Kantian doctrine, 
that the moral will is the true Homo Noumenon, the Self of 
man. The conscious Self being dormant in dreams, it is 
obvious that the true phenomena of Conscience cannot be 


developed in them. Plutarch says that Zeno ordered his 
followers to regard dreams as a test of virtue, and to note 
it as a dangerous sign if they did not recoil, even in their 
sleep, from vice ; and Sir Thomas Browne talks solemnly 
of " Sinful Dreams," which, as their biographies abundantly 
show, have proved terrible stumbling-blocks to the saints. 
But the doctrine of Unconscious Cerebration explains clearly 
enough how, in the absence of the controlling Will, the 
animal elements of our nature assert themselves generally 
in the ratio of their unnatural suppression at other times 
and abstinence is made up for by hungry Fancy spreading 
a glutton s feast. The want of sense of sin in such dreams , 
is, I think, the most natural and most healthful symptom \ 
about them. 

But if moral Repentance rarely or never follow the im 
aginary transgressions of dreams, another sense, the Saxon 
sense of Dissatisfaction in unfinished work, is not only often 
present, but sometimes exceedingly harassing. The late 
eminent physician, Professor John Thompson, of Edinburgh, 
quitted his father s cottage in early manhood, leaving half 
woven a web of cloth on which he had been engaged as a 
weaver s apprentice. Half a century afterwards, the then 
prosperous and celebrated gentleman still found his slum 
bers disturbed by the apparition of his old loom and the 
sense of the imperative duty of finishing the never-completed 
web. The tale is like a parable of what all this life s neg 
lected duties may be to us, perchance in an absolved and 
glorified Hereafter, wherein, nevertheless, that web which 
we have left undone will have passed from our hands for 
ever. Of course, as it is the proper task of the unconscious 
brain to direct voluntary labours started by the will, it is 
easily explicable why it should be tormented by the sense 
of their incompletion. 

But leaving the vast half- studied subject of dreams, 


which belongs rather, to the class of involuntary than of 
unconscious cerebration, we must turn to consider the 
surprising phenomena of true Unconscious Cerebration, de 
veloped under conditions of abnormal excitement. Among 
these I class those mysterious Voices, issuing we know not 
whence, in which some strong fear, doubt, or hope finds 
utterance. The part played by these Voices in the history 
both of religion and of fanaticism it is needless to describe. 
So far as I can judge, they are of two kinds. One is a sort 
of lightning-burst suddenly giving intensely vivid expression 
to a whole set of feelings or ideas which have been lying 
latent in the brain, and which are in opposition to the feel 
ings and ideas of our conscious selves at the moment. Thus 
the man ready to commit a crime hears a voice appealing 
to him to stop ; while the man praying ardently for faith 
hears another voice say, " There is no God." Of course 
the good suggestion is credited to heaven, and the other 
to the powers of the Pit, but the source of both is, I appre 
hend, the same, namely, Unconscious Cerebration. The 
second class of Voices are the result, not of unconscious 
Reasoning but of unconscious Memory. Under some special 
excitement, and perhaps inexplicably remote association of 
ideas, some words which once made a violent impression on 
us are remembered from the inner depths. Chance may 
make these either awfully solemn, or as ludicrous as that 
of a gentleman, shipwrecked off South America, who, as 
he was sinking and almost drowning, distinctly heard his 
mother s voice say, " Tom ! did you take Jane s cake ? " 
The portentous inquiry had been addressed to him forty 
years previously, and (as might have been expected) had 
been wholly forgotten. In fever, in a similar way, ideas 
and words long consigned to oblivion are constantly repro 
duced; nay, what is most curious of all, long trains of 
phrases which the individual has indeed heard, but which 


could hardly have become a possession of the memory in 
its natural state, are then brought out in entire unconscious 
ness. My readers will recall the of ten- quoted and well- 
authenticated story of the peasant girl in the Hotel Dieu 
in Paris, who in her delirium frequently " spouted " Hebrew. 
After much inquiry it was found she had been cook to a 
learned priest who had been in the habit of -reading aloud 
his Hebrew books in the room adjoining her kitchen. A 
similar anecdote is told of another servant girl who in ab 
normal sleep imitated some beautiful violin playing which 
she had heard many years previously. 

From Sounds to Sights the transition is obvious. An 
Apparition is to the optical sense what such a Yoice as 
I have spoken of above is to the hearing. At a certain 
point of intensity the latent idea in the unconscious brain 
reveals itself and produces an impression on the sensory; 
sometimes affecting one sense, sometimes another, sometimes 
perhaps two senses at a time. 

Hibbert s well-known explanation of the philosophy of 
apparitions is this. "We are, he says, in our waking hours, 
fully aware that what we really see and hear are actual 
sights and sounds ; and what we only conjure up by fancy 
are delusions. In our sleeping hours this sense is not only 
lost, but the opposite conviction fully possesses us ; namely, 
that what we conjure up by fancy in our dreams is true, 
while the real sights and sounds around us are unperceived. 
These two states are exchanged for each other at least twice 
in every twenty-four hours of our lives, and generally much 
oftener ; in fact every time we doze or take a nap. Very 
often such slumbers begin and end before we have become 
aware of them ; or have lost consciousness of the room and 
its furniture surrounding us. If at such times a peculiarly 
vivid dream takes the form of an apparition of a dead friend, 
there is nothing to rectify the delusion that what we have 


fancied is real, nay even a background of positive truth is 
apparently supplied by the bedstead, curtains, etc., etc., of 
whose presence we have not lost consciousness for more than 
the fraction of time needful for a dream. 

It would, I think, be easy to apply this reasoning with 
great advantage, taking into view the phenomena of Uncon 
scious Cerebration. The intersection of the states wherein 
consciousness yields to unconsciousness, and vice versa, is 
obviously always difficult of sharp appreciation, and leaves 
wide margin for self-deception ; and a ghost is of all creations 
of fancy the one which bears most unmistakable internal 
evidence of being home-made. The poor unconscious brain 
goes on upon the track of the lost friend, on which the 
conscious soul, ere it fell asleep, had started it. But with 
all its wealth of fancy it never succeeds in picturing a new 
ghost, a fresh idea of the departed, whom yet by every 
principle of reason we know is not (whatever else he or 
she may have become) a white-faced figure in coat and 
trowsers, or in a silk dress and gold ornaments. All the 
familiar arguments proving the purely subjective nature 
of apparitions of the dead, or of supernatural beings, point 
exactly to Unconscious Cerebration as the teeming source 
wherein they have been engendered. In some instances, 
as in the famous ones quoted by Abercrombie, the brain 
was sufficiently distempered to call up such phantoms even 
while the conscious self was in full activity. "Mrs. A." 
saw all her visions calmly, and knew that they were visions ; 
thus bringing the conscious and unconscious workings of her 
. brain into an awful sort of face-to-face recognition ; like the 
sight of a Doppcl- ganger. But such experience is the ex 
ceptional one. The ordinary case is, that the unconscious 
cerebration supplies the apparition ; and the conscious self 
accepts it de bonne foi, having no means of distinguishing it 
from the impressions derived from the real objects of sense. 


The famous story in my own family, of the Beresford 
ghost, is, I think, an excellent illustration of the re 
lation of unconscious cerebration to dreams of apparitions. 
Lady Beresford, as I conjecture, in her sleep hit her wrist 
violently against some part of her bedstead so as to hurt it 
severely. According to the law of dreams, already referred 
to, her unconscious brain set about accounting for the pain, 
transmitting the Sensation into an Idea. An instant s sen 
sation (as Mr. Babbage, Sir Benjamin Brodie, and Lord 
Brougham have all illustrated) is enough to call up a long 
vision. Lady Beresford fancied accordingly that her dead 
cousin, Lord Tyrone, had come to fulfil his promise of re 
visiting her from the tomb. He twisted her curtains and 
left a mark on her wardrobe (probably an old stain she had 
remarked on the wood), and then touched her wrist with 
his terrible finger. The dreamer awoke with a black and 
blue wrist ; and the story took its place in the annals of 
ghost- craft for ever. . 

Somnambulism is an unmistakable form of unconscious 
cerebration. Here, while consciousness is wholly dormant, 
the brain performs occasionally the most brilliant operations. 
Coleridge s poem of Kubla Khan, composed in opiate sleep, 
is an instance of its achievements in the realm of pure im 
agination. Many cases are recorded of students rising at 
night, seeking their desks, and there writing down whole 
columns of algebraic calculations ; solutions of geometric 
problems, and opinions on difficult cases of law. Cabanis says 
that Condillac brought continually to a conclusion at night 
in his sleep the reasonings of the day. In all such cases the 
work done asleep seems better than that done in waking 
hours ; nay there is no lack of anecdotes which would point 
to the possibility of persons in an unconscious state accom 
plishing things beyond their ordinary powers altogether. 
The muscular strength of men in somnambulism and de- 


lirium, their power of balancing themselves on roofs, and 
of finding their way in the dark, are physical advantages 
reserved for such conditions. Abnormal acuteness of hear 
ing is also a well-known accompaniment of them, and in 
this relation we must, I conclude, understand the marvellous 
story vouched for by the late Sir Edward Codrington. 
The captain in command of a man-of-war was one night 
sleeping in his cabin, with a sentinel as usual posted at 
his door. In the middle of the night the captain rang 
his bell, called suddenly to the sentinel, and sharply de 
sired him to tell the lieutenant of the watch to alter the 
ship s course by so many points. Next morning the officer, 
on greeting the captain, observed that it was most fortunate 
he had been aware of their position and had given such an 
order, as there had been a mistake in the reckoning, and the 
ship was in shoal water, on the point of striking a reef. 
" I ! " said the astonished captain, " I gave no order ; I 
slept soundly all night." The sentinel was summoned, and 
of course testified that the experienced commander had in 
some unknown way learned the peril of his ship, and saved 
it, even while in a state of absolute unconsciousness. 

Whatever residue of truth may be found hereafter in the 
crucible wherein spirit-rapping, planchette, mesmerism, and 
hypnotism shall have been tried ; whatever revelation of for 
gotten facts or successful hits at secrets, will, I believe, be 
found to be unquestionably due to the action of Unconscious 
Cerebration. The person reduced to a state of coma is liable 
to receive suggestions from without, and these suggestions and 
queries are answered by his unconscious brain out of whatever 
stores of memory it may retain. What a man never knew, 
that no magic has ever yet enabled him to tell ; but what he 
has once known, and in his conscious hours has forgotten, 
that, on the contrary, is often recalled by the suggestive 
queries of the operator when he is in a state of hypnotism. 


A natural dream sometimes does as much, as witness all the 
discoveries of hidden treasures, corpses, etc., made through 
dreams ; and generally with the aid of the obvious machinery 
of a ghost. General Sleeman mentions that, being in pur 
suit of Thugs up the country, his wife one morning urgently 
entreated him to move their tents from the spot a lovely 
opening in the jungle where they had been pitched the pre 
vious evening. She said she had been haunted all night by 
the sight of dead men. Information received during the day 
induced the General to order an examination of the ground 
whereon they had camped ; and beneath Mrs. Sleeman s tent 
were found fourteen corpses, victims of the Thugs. It is 
easily conceivable that the foul odour of death suggested to 
the lady, in the unconscious cerebration of her dream, her 
horrible vision. Had she been in a state of mesmeric trance, 
the same occurrence would have formed a splendid instance 
of supernatural revelation. 

Drunkenness is a condition in which the conscious self is 
more or less completely obfuscated, but in which unconscious 
cerebration goes on for a long time. The proverbial im 
punity with which drunken men fall without hurting them 
selves can only be attributed to the fact that the conscious 
will does not interfere with the unconscious instinct of falling 
on the parts of the body least liable to injury. The same 
impunity is enjoyed by persons not intoxicated, who at the 
moment of an accident do not exert any volition in deter 
mining which way they shall strike the ground. All the 
ludicrous stories of the absence of mind of tipsy men may 
obviously be explained by supposing that their unconscious 
cerebration is blindly fumbling to perform tasks needing 
conscious direction. And be it remembered that the proverb 
" in vino ceritas " is here in exact harmony with our theory. 
The drunken man unconsciously blurts out the truth, his 
muddled brain being unequal to the task of inventing a 



plausible falsehood. The delicious fun of Sheridan, found 
tipsy under a tree and telling the policeman that he was 
" Wil-Wil-Wilberforce," reveals at once that the wag, if a 
little exalted, was by no means really drunk. Such a joke 
could hardly have occurred to an unconscious brain, even one 
so well accustomed to the production of humour. Like 
dreams, intoxication never brings new elements of nature into 
play, but only abnormally excites latent ones. It is only a 
Porson who when drunk solemnly curses the " aggravating 
properties of inanimate matter," or, when he cannot fit his 

latch-key, is heard muttering, " D n the nature of things I " 

A noble miser of the last century revealed his true character, 
and also the state of his purse, whenever he was fuddled, by 
murmuring softly to himself, " I m very rich ! I m very 
rich ! " In sober moments he complained continually of his 
limited means. In the same way it is the brutal labourer 
who in his besotted state thrashes his horse and kicks his 
wife. A drunken woman, 011 the contrary, unless an habitual 
virago, rarely strikes anybody. The accustomed vehicle for 
her emotions her tongue is the organ of whose services 
her unconscious cerebration avails itself. 

Finally, the condition of perfect anaesthesia appears to be 
one in which unconscious cerebration is perfectly exemplified. 
The conscious Self is then so absolutely dormant that it is 
not only unaware of the most frightful laceration of the 
nerves, but has no conception of the interval of time in 
which an operation takes place ; usually awakening to in 
quire, " When do the surgeons intend to begin ? " Mean 
while unconscious cerebration has been busy composing a 
pretty little picture of green fields and skipping lambs, or 
something equally remote from the terrible reality. 

There are many other obscure mental phenomena wjdch 
I believe might be explained by the theory of unconscious 
cerebration, even if the grand mystery of insanity does not 


receive (as I apprehend it must do) some elucidation from 
it. Presentiments and dreams of the individual s own death 
may certainly be explicable as the dumb revelations of the 
diseased frame to its own nervous centre. The strange and 
painful, but very common, sense of having seen and heard at 
some previous time what is passing at the moment, appears to 
arise from some abnormal irritation of the memory (if I may 
so express it), evidently connected with the unconscious action 
of the brain. Still more " uncanny " and mysterious is the 
impression (to me almost amounting to torture) that we have 
never for years quitted the spot to which in truth we have 
only that instant returned after a long interval. Under this 
hateful spell we say to ourselves that we have been weeks, 
months, ages, studying the ornaments of the cornice opposite 
our seat in church, or following the outline of the gnarled 
old trees, black against the evening sky. This delusion, I 
think, only arises when we have undergone strong mental 
tension at the haunted spot. While our conscious selves 
have been absorbed in speculative thought or strong emotion, 
our unconscious cerebration has photographed the scene on 
our optic nerves pour passer le temps ! 

The limitations of unconscious cerebration are as noticeable 
as its marvellous powers and achievements. It is obvious at 
first sight, that, though in the unconscious state mental work 
is sometimes better done than in the conscious (e.g. the finding 
missing names awake, or performing abstruse calculations in 
somnambulism), yet that the unconscious work is never more 
than the continuation of something which has been begun in 
the conscious condition. We recall the name which we have 
known and forgotten, but we do not discover what we never 
knew. The man who does not understand algebra never 
performs algebraic calculations in his sleep. No problem in 
Euclid has been solved in dreams except by students who 


have studied Euclid awake. The mere voluntary and uncon 
scious movements of our legs in walking, and our hands in 
writing and playing music, were at first in infancy, or when 
we began to learn each art, actions purely volitional, which 
often required a strong effort of the conscious will for their 

Again, the failures of unconscious cerebration are as easily 
traced as its limitations. The most familiar of them may be 
observed in the phenomena which we call Absence of Mind, 
and which seems to consist in a disturbance of the proper 
balance between conscious and unconscious cerebration, 
leaving the latter to perform tasks of which it is incapable. 
An absent man walks, as we say, in a dream. All men 
indeed, as before remarked, "perform the mechanical act of 
walking merely voluntarily and not volitionally, but their 
consciousness is not so far off but that it can be recalled at a 
moment s notice. The porter at the door of the senses can 
summons the master of the house the instant he is wanted 
about business. But the absent man does not answer such 
calls. A friend addresses him, and his unconscious brain 
instead of his conscious self answers the question a tort et d 
tmvers. He boils his watch for breakfast and puts his egg 
in his pocket ; his unconscious brain merely concerning 
itself that something is to be boiled and something else put 
in the pocket. He searches up and down for the spectacles 
which are on his nose; he forgets to eat his dinner and 
wonders why he feels hungry. His social existence is 
poisoned by his unconquerable propensity to say the wrong 
thing to the wrong person. Meeting Mrs. Bombazine in 
deep widow s weeds, he cheerfully inquires, " Well, and what 
is Mr. Bombazine doing now?" albeit he has received formal 
notice that Mr. Bombazine departed a month ago to that 
world of whose doings no information is received. He tells 
Mr. Parvenu, whose father is strongly suspected of having 


been a shoemaker, that " for his part he does not like new- 
made men at the head of affairs, and holds to the good old 
motto, jN"e sutor ultra crepidam ; and this brilliant ob 
servation he delivers with a pleasant laugh, giving it all 
possible point and pungency. If he have an acquaintance 
whose brother was hanged or drowned, or scraped to death ^ ( 
with oyster- shells, then to a moral certainty the subjects of 
capital punishment, the perils of the deep, and the proper ; 
season for eating oysters, will be the topics selected by him 
for conversation during the awkward ten minutes before 
dinner. Of course the injured friend believes he is inten 
tionally insulted ; but he is quite mistaken. The absent 
man had merely a vague recollection of his trouble, which 
unfortunately proved a stumbling-block against which his un 
conscious cerebration was certain to bring him into collision. 

As a general rule, the unconscious brain, like an enfant 
terrible, is extremely veracious. The "Palace of Truth" 
is nothing but a house full of absent-minded people who 
unconsciously say what they think of each other, when they 
consciously intend to be extremely flattering. But it also 
sometimes happens that falsehood has so far become second 
nature that a man s very interjections, unconscious answers, 
and soliloquies may all be lies. Nothing can be more remote" 
from nature than the dramas and novels wherein astute 
scoundrels, in the privacy of an evening walk beside a 
hedge, unveil their secret plots in an address to Fate or 
the Moon ; or fall into a well-timed brain fever, and babble 
out exactly the truth which the reader needs to be told. 
Your real villain never tells truth even to himself, much 
less to Fate or the Moon ; and ifc is to be doubted whether, 
even in delirium, his unconscious cerebration would not run 
in the accustomed ruts of fable rather than along the un 
wonted paths of veracity. 

Another failure of unconscious cerebration is seen in the 


continuance of habitual actions when the motive for them 
has ceased. A change in attire, altering the position of 
our pockets, never fails to cause us a dozen fruitless strug 
gles to find our handkerchief, or replace our purse. In 
returning to an old abode we are sure, sooner or later, to 
blunder into our former sleeping-roorn, and to be much 
startled to find in it another occupant. It happened to me 
once, after an interval of eight years, to find myself again 
in the chamber, at the table, and seated on the chair where 
my little studies had gone on for half a lifetime. I had 
business to occupy my thoughts, and was soon (so far as 
consciousness went) buried in my task of writing. But all 
the time while I wrote my feet moved restlessly in a most 
unaccustomed way under the table. "What is the matter 
with me?" I paused at last to ask myself, and then re 
membered that when I had written at this table in long 
past days, I had had a stool under it. It was that particular 
stool my unconscious cerebration was seeking. During all 
the interval I had perhaps not once used a similar support, 
but the moment I sat in the same spot, the trifling habit 
vindicated itself afresh ; the brain acted on its old impression. 
Of course it is as easy as it is common to dismiss all such 
fantastic tricks with the single word "Habit." But the 
word " Habit/ like the word " Law," has no positive sense 
as if it were itself an originating cause. It implies a per 
sistent mode of action, but affords no clue to the force which 
initiates and maintains that action. All that we can say, 
in the case of the phenomena of unconscious cerebration, is, 
that when volitional actions have been often repeated, they 
sink into the class of voluntary ones, and are performed uncon 
sciously. We may define the moment when a Habit is estab 
lished as that wherein the Yolitional act becomes Voluntary. 

It will be observed by the reader that all the phenomena 


of Unconscious Cerebration now indicated belong to different 
orders as related to the Conscious Self. In one order (e.g., 
that of Delirium, Somnambulism, and Anaesthesia) the Con 
scious Self has no appreciable concern whatever. The action 
of the brain has not been originated or controlled by the 
will ; there is no sense of it either painful or pleasurable, 
while it proceeds ; and no memory of it when it is over. 

In the second order (e.g., that of rediscovered words, and 
waking at a given hour), the Conscious Self has so far a 
concern, that it originally set the task to the brain. This 
done, it remains in entire ignorance of how the brain per 
forms it, nor does Memory afterwards retain the faintest 
trace of the labours, however arduous, of word-seeking and 

Lastly, in the third class, more strictly to be defined as 
that of Involuntary Cerebration, (e.g., that of natural dreams ), 
the share taken by the Conscious Self is the reverse of that 
which it assumes in the case of word-seeking and time- 
marking. In dreams we do not, and cannot with our utmost 
effort, direct our unconscious brains into the trains of thought 
and fancy wherein we desire them to go. Obedient as they 
are in the former case, where work was to be done, here, in 
the land of fancy, they seem to mock our futile attempts to 
guide them. Nevertheless, strange to say, the Conscious 
Self which knew nothing of what was going on while its 
leg was being amputated under chloroform, and nothing of 
what its brain was doing, while finding out what o clock 
it was with closed eyes in the dark is here cognizant of all 
the proceedings, and able in great measure to recall them 
afterwards. We receive intense pain or pleasure from our 
dreams, though we have actually less to do in concocting 
them than in dozens of mental processes which go on wholly 
unperceived in our brains. 1 

1 Eeid boasted he had learned to control his dreams, and there is a story of a 


Thus it would seem that neither Memory nor Volition 
have any constant relation to unconscious cerebration. We 
sometimes remember, and sometimes wholly forget its action ; 
and sometimes it fulfils our wishes, and sometimes wholly 
disregards them. The one constant fact is, that while the 
actions are being performed, the Conscious Self is either wholly 
uncognizant of them or unable to control them. It is either 
in a state of high activity about other and irrelevant matters 
or it is entirely passive. In every case the line between 
the Conscious Self, and the unconsciously working brain is 
clearly defined. 

Having now faintly traced the outline of the psycho 
logical facts illustrative of unconscious cerebration, it is 
time to turn to the brilliant physiological explanation 
of them afforded by Dr. Carpenter. We have seen what 
our brains can do without our consciousness. The way 
they do it is on this wise (I quote, slightly abridged, 
from Dr. Carpenter). 

All parts of the Nervous system appear to possess certain 
powers of automatic action. The Spinal cord has for primary 
functions the performance of the motions of respiration and 
swallowing. The automatic action of the Sensory ganglia 
seems to be connected with movements of protection 
such as the closing the eyes to a flash of light and their 
secondary use enables a man to shrink from dangers of col 
lisions, etc., before he has time for conscious escape. Finally, 
we arrive at the automatic action of the Cerebrum; and 
here Dr. Carpenter reminds us that, instead of being 
(as formerly supposed) the centre of the whole system, in 
direct connexion with the organs of sense and the mus- 

man who always guided his own fancy in sleep. Such dreams, however, would 
hardly deserve the name. 


cular apparatus, the Cerebrum is, according to modern 

" A superadded organ, the development of which seems to bear a 
pretty constant relation to the degree in which intelligence supersedes 
instinct as a spring of action. The ganglionic matter which is spread 
out upon the surface of the hemispheres, and in which their potentiality 
resides, is connected with the Sensory Tract at their base (which is the 
real centre of conveyance for the sensory nerves of the whole body) by 
commissural fibres, long since termed by Reid, with sagacious foresight, 
nerves of the internal senses, and its anatomical relation to the sen- 
sorium is thus precisely the same as that of the Retina, which is a 
ganglionic expansion connected with the Sensorium by the optic nerve. 
Hence it may be fairly surmised 1. That as we only become conscious 
of visual impressions on the retina when their influence has been 
transmitted to the central sensorium, so we only become conscious of 
ideational changes in the cerebral hemispheres when their influence has 
been transmitted to the same centre ; 2. That as visual changes may 
take place in the retina of which we are unconscious, either through 
temporary inactivity of the Sensorium (as in sleep), or through the 
entire occupation of the attention in some other direction, so may 
ideational changes take place in the Cerebrum, of which we may be 
unconscious for want of receptivity on the part of the Sensorium, but of 
which the results may present themselves to the consciousness as ideas 
elaborated by an automatic process of which we have no cognizance." l 

Lastly, we come to the conclusions to be deduced from the 
above investigations. "We have credited to the Unconscious 
Brain the following powers and faculties : 

1. It not only remembers as much as the Conscious Self 
can recall, but often much more. It is even doubtful whether 
it may not be capable, under certain conditions, of repro 
ducing every impression ever made upon the senses during 

2. It can understand what words or things are sought to 
be remembered, and hunt them up through some recondite 

1 Report of Meeting of Royal Institution. Dr. Carpenter s Lecture, March 1, 
1868, pp. 4, 5. 


process known only to itself, till it discovers and pounces 
on them. 

3. It can fancy the most beautiful pictures and also the 
most terrible ones, and weave ten thousand fables with in 
exhaustible invention. 

4. It can perform the exceedingly difficult task of mental 
arrangement and logical division of subjects. 

5. It can transact all the mechanical business of walking, 
reading, writing, sewing, playing, etc., etc. 

6. It can tell the hour in the middle of the night without 
a timepiece. 

Let us be content with these ordinary and unmistakable 
exercises of unconscious cerebration, and leave aside all 
rare or questionable wonders of somnambulism and cognate 
states. "We have got Memory, Fancy, Understanding, at all 
events, as faculties exercised by the Unconscious Brain. Now 
it is obvious that it would be an unusual definition of the 
word " Thought " which should debar us from applying it 
to the above phenomena ; or compel us to say that we can 
remember, fancy, and understand without " thinking " of the 
things remembered, fancied, or understood. But Who, or 
What, then, is it that accomplishes these confessedly mental 
functions ? Two answers are given to the query, each of 
them, as I venture to think, erroneous. Biichner and his 
followers say, " It is our physical Brains, and these Brains 
are ourselves." l And non-materialists say, " It is our con 
scious Selves, which merely use our brains as their instru 
ments." We must go into this matter somewhat carefully. 

In a certain loose and popular way of speaking, our brains 
are " ourselves." So also in the same way of speaking are 
our hearts, our limbs, and the hairs of our head. But in 

1 Biichner s precise doctrine is, " The brain is only the carrier and the source, 
or rather the sole cause of the spirit or thought ; but not the organ which secretes 
it. It produces something which is not materially permanent, but which con 
sumes itself in the moment of its production." Kraft und Stof, chap. xiii. 


more accurate language the use of the pronoun "I" applied 
to any part of our bodies is obviously incorrect, and even 
inadmissible. We say, indeed, commonly, " I struck with 
my hand/ when our hand has obeyed our volition. It is, 
then, in fact, the will of the Self which we are describing. 
But if our hand has been forcibly compelled to strike by 
another man seizing it, or if it have shaken by palsy, we 
only say, " My hand was forced/ 7 or " was shaken." The 
limb s action is not ours, unless it has been done by our will. 
In the case of the heart, the very centre of physical life, 
we never dream of using such a phrase as " I am beating 
slowly," or "I am palpitating fast." And why do we not say 
so ? Because, the action of our hearts being involuntary, 
we are sensible that the conscious " I " is not the agent in 
question, albeit the mortal life of that " I " is hanging on 
every pulsation. Now the problem which concerns us is 
this : Can we, or can we not, properly speak of our brains 
as we do of our hearts ? Is it more proper to say, " I invent 
my dreams," than it is to say, " I am beating slowly " ? I 
venture to think the cases are precisely parallel. When 
our brains perform acts of unconscious cerebration (such as 
dreams), they act just as our hearts do, i.e. involuntarily; 
and we ought to speak of them as we always do of our 
hearts, as of organs of our frame, but not our Selves. When 
our brains obey our wills, then they act as our hands do 
when we voluntarily strike a blow ; and then we do right to 
speak as if " we " performed the act accomplished by their 

Now to return to our point. Are the an ti- Materialists 
right to say that the agent in unconscious cerebration is, 
"We, ourselves, who merely use our brains as their instru 
ments ; " or are the Materialists right who say, "It is our 
physical brains alone, and these brains are ourselves " ? 
With regard to the first reply, I think that all the foregoing 


study has gone to show that " we " are not remembering, not 
fancying, not understanding, what is being at the moment 
remembered, fancied, or understood. To say, then, that in 
such acts " we " are " using our brains as our instruments/ 
appears nothing but a servile and unmeaning adherence to 
the foregone conclusion that our brains are nothing else than 
the organs of our will. It is absurd to call them so when 
we are concerned with phenomena whose speciality is that 
the will has nothing to do with them. So far, then, as this 
part of the argument is concerned, I think the answer of the 
anti-Materialists must be pronounced to be erroneous. The 
balance of evidence inclines to the Materialists doctrine that 
the brain itself performs the mental processes in question, 
and, to use Vogt s expression, " secretes Thought " automati 
cally and spontaneously. 

But if this presumption be accepted provisionally, and the 
possibility admitted of its future physiological demonstration, 
have we, with it, accepted also the Materialist s ordinary 
conclusion that we and our automatically thinking brains 
are one and indivisible ? If the brain can work by itself, 
have we any reason to believe it ever works also under the 
guidance of something external to itself, which we may 
describe as the Conscious Self ? It seems to me that this 
is precisely what the preceding facts have likewise gone to 
prove namely, that there are two kinds of action of the 
brain, the one Automatic, and the other subject to the wiU 
of the Conscious Self ; just as the actions of a horse are 
some of them spontaneous and some done under the com 
pulsion of his rider. The first order of actions tend to 
indicate that the brain "secretes thought ;" the second order 
(strongly contrasting with the first) show that, beside that 
automatically working brain, there is another agency in the 
field under whose control the brain performs a wholly differ 
ent class of labours. Everywhere in the preceding pages we 


have traced the extraordinary separation which continually 
takes place between our Conscious Selves and the automatic 
action of the organ, which serves as our medium of com 
munication with the outward world. We have seen, in a 
word, that we are not Centaurs, steed and rider in one, 
but horsemen, astride on roadsters which obey us when 
we guide them, and when we drop the reins, trot a little 
way of their own accord or canter off without our permis 

When we place the phenomena of Unconscious Thought 
on one side, and over against them our Conscious Selves, 
we obtain, I think, a new and vivid sense of the separation, 
not to say the antithesis, which exists between the two ; 
close as is their mutual interdependence. Not to talk about 
the distinction between object and subject, or dwell on the 
absurdity fas it seems to me) of the proposition that we our 
selves are only the sum-total of a series of cerebrations 
the recognition of the fact that our brains sometimes think 
without us, seems to enable us to view our connexion with 
them in quite a new light. So long as all our attention 
was given to Conscious Thought, and philosophers eagerly 
argued the question, whether the Soul did or did not ever 
sleep or cease to think, it was easy to confound the organ 
of thought with the Conscious Self who was supposed alone 
to set it in action. But the moment we marshal together 
for review the long array of the phenomena of Unconscious 
Cerebration, the case is altered; the severance becomes not 
only cogitable, but manifest. 

Let us then accept cheerfully the possibility, perhaps the 
probability, that science ere long will proclaim the dogma, 
"Matter can think." Having humbly bowed to the decree, 
we shall find ourselves none the worse. Admitting that our 
brains accomplish much without our conscious guidance, will 
help us to realize that our relation to them is of a variable 


an intermittent and (we may therefore venture to hope) 
of a terminable kind. 

That such a conclusion, if reached, will have afforded us 
any direct argument for human immortality, cannot be pre 
tended. Though we may succeed in proving " that the 
Brain can think without the Conscious Man," the great con 
verse theorem, " that the Conscious Man can think without 
a Brain/ has as yet received no jot of direct evidence ; nor 
ever will do so, I hold, while we walk by faith and not by 
sight, and Heaven remains " a part of our religion, and not 
a branch of our geography." 

But it is something, nay it is surely much, if, by groping 
among the obscurer facts of consciousness, we may attain the 
certainty that whatever be the final conclusions of science 
regarding our mental nature, the one which we have most 
dreaded, if reached at last, will militate not at all against 
the hope, written on the heart of the nations, by that Hand 
which writes no falsehoods; that "when the dust returns 
to the dust whence it was taken, the Spirit " the Conscious 
Self of Man " shall return to God who gave it." 



IN the preceding Essay I have endeavoured to range 
together a considerable number of facts illustrative of the 
automatic action of the brain. My purpose in the present 
article is to treat more at length one class of such phe 
nomena to which I could not afford space proportionate to 
their interest, in the wide survey required by the design 
of the former paper. I shall seek to obtain from some 
familiar and some more rare examples of dreams, such light 
as they may be calculated to throw on the nature of brain- 
work, unregulated by the will. Perhaps I may be allowed 
to add, as an apology for once more venturing into this 
field of inquiry, that the large number of letters and friendly 
criticisms which my first paper called forth have both en 
couraged me to pursue the subject by showing how much 
interest is felt in its popular treatment, and have also 
afforded me the advantage of the experience of many other 
minds regarding some of the obscure mental phenomena in 
question. In the present case I shall feel grateful to any 
reader who will correct from personal knowledge any 
statement I may make which he finds erroneous. 

336 DREAMS. 

Dreams are to our waking thoughts much like echoes to 
music ; but their reverberations are so partial, so varied, so 
complex, that it is almost in vain we seek among the notes 
of consciousness for the echoes of the dream. If we could 
by any means ascertain on what principle our dreams for 
a given night are arranged, and why one idea more than 
another furnishes their cue, it would be comparatively easy 
to follow out the chain of associations by which they unroll 
themselves afterwards ; and to note the singular ease and 
delicacy whereby subordinate topics, recently wafted across 
our minds, are seized and woven into the network of the 
dream. But the reason why from among the five thousand 
thoughts of the day, we revert at night especially to thoughts 
number 2, and 4, instead of to thoughts number 3, and 6, or 
any other in the list, is obviously impossible to conjecture. 
We can but observe that the echo of the one note has been 
caught, and of the others lost amid the obscure caverns of 
the memory. Certain broad rules, however, may be remarked 
as obtaining generally regarding the topics of dreams. In 
the first place, if we have any present considerable physical 
sensation or pain, such as may be produced by a wound, or 
a fit of indigestion, or hunger, or an unaccustomed sound, 
we are pretty sure to dream of it in preference to any sub 
ject of mental interest only. Again, if we have merely a 
slight sensation of uneasiness, insufficient to cause a dream, 
it will yet be enough to colour a dream, otherwise suggested, 
with a disagreeable hue. Failing to have a dream suggested 
to it by present physical sensation, the brain seems to revert 
to the subjects of thought of the previous day, or of some 
former period of life, and to take up one or other of them as 
a theme on which to play variations. As before remarked, 
the grounds of choice among all such subjects cannot be 
ascertained, but the predilection of Morpheus for those which 
we have not in our waking hours thought most interesting, 

DREAMS. 337 

is very noticeable. Yery rarely indeed do our dreams take 
up the matter which has most engrossed us for hours before 
we sleep. A wholesome law of variety comes into play, and 
the brain seems to decide, " I have had enough of politics, 
or Greek, or fox-hunting, for this time. Now I will amuse 
myself quite differently." Yery often, perhaps we may say 
generally, it pounces on some transient thought which has 
flown like a swallow across it by daylight, and insists on 
holding it fast through the night. Only when our attention 
has more or less transgressed the bounds of health, and 
we have been morbidly excited about it, does the main 
topic of the day s interest recur to us in dreaming at night ; 
and that it should do so, ought, I imagine, always to serve 
as a warning that we have strained our mental powers a 
little too far. 1 Lastly, there are dreams whose origin is 
not in any past thought, but in some sentiment vivid 
and pervading enough to make itself dumbly felt even in 
sleep. Of the nature of the dreams so caused I shall 
speak presently. 

The subject of a dream being, as we must now suppose, 
suggested to the brain on some such principles as the above, 
the next thing to be noted is, How does the brain treat its 
theme when it has got it ? Does it drily reflect upon it, 
as we are wont to do awake? Or does it pursue a course 
wholly foreign to the laws of waking thoughts? It does, 
I conceive, neither one nor the other, but treats its theme, 
whenever it is possible to do so, according to a certain very 
important, though obscure, law of thought, whose action 
we are too apt to ignore. We have been accustomed to con 
sider the myth-creating power of the human mind as one 
specially belonging to the earlier stages of growth of society 

1 A distinguished man of science has told me that ho finds the dreams of the 
first part of the night to be usually connected with the events of the past day, 
Avhile those of the morning revert to long past scenes and interests. 


338 DREAMS. 

and of the individual. It will throw, I think, a rather 
curious light on the subject if we discover that this instinct 
exists in every one of us, and exerts itself with more or 
less energy through the whole of our lives. In hours of 
waking consciousness, indeed, it is suppressed, or has only 
the narrowest range of exercise, as in the tendency, notice 
able in all persons not of the very strictest veracity, to 
supplement an incomplete anecdote with explanatory inci 
dents, or to throw a slightly known story into the dramatic 
form, with dialogues constructed out of their own conscious 
ness. But such small play of the myth-making faculty is 
nothing compared to its achievements during sleep. The 
instant that daylight and common sense are excluded, the 
fairy-work begins. At the very least half our dreams (un 
less I greatly err) are nothing else than myths formed by 
unconscious cerebration on the same approved principles, 
whereby Greece and India and Scandinavia gave to us 
the stories which we were once pleased to set apart as 
"mythology" proper. Have we not here, then, evidence 
that there is a real law of the human mind causing us 
constantly to compose ingenious fables explanatory of the 
phenomena around us, a law which only sinks into abey 
ance in the waking hours of persons in whom the reason 
has been highly cultivated, but which resumes its sway 
even over their well-tutored brains when they sleep ? 1 

1 A correspondent has kindly sent me the following interesting remarks on the 
above: "When dropping asleep some nights ago I suddenly started awake 
with the thought on my mind, Why I was making a dream! I had detected 
myself in the act of inventing a dream. Three or four impressions of scenes 
and events which had passed across my mind during the day were present 
together in my mind, and the effort was certainly being made, but not by my 
fully conscious will, to arrange them so as to form a continuous story. They had 
actually not the slightest connexion, but a process was evidently going on in my 
brain by which they were being united into one scheme or plot. Had I remained 
asleep until the plot had been matured, I presume my waking sensation would 
have been tbat I had had an ordinary dream. But perhaps through the partial 
failure of the unconscious effort at a plan, I woke up just in time to catch a 

DREAMS. 339 

Most dreams lend themselves easily to the myth-making 
process ; but pre-eminently dreams originating in Sensation 
or in Sentiment do so. Of those which arise from memory 
of Ideas only, I shall speak by and by. 

Nothing can better illustrate the Sensation myth than 
the well-known story recorded of himself by Reid. "The 
only distinct dream I had ever since I was about sixteen, 
as far as I remember, was two years ago. I had got my 
head blistered for a fall. A plaster which was put on it 
after the blister pained me excessively for the whole night. 
In the morning I slept a little, and dreamed very distinctly 
that I had fallen into the hands of a party of Indians and 
was scalped." l 

The number of mental operations needful for the transmu 
tation of the sensation of a blistered head into a dream of 
Red Indians, is very worthy of remark. First, Perception 
of pain, and allotment of it to its true place in the body. 
Secondly, Reason seeking the cause of the phenomenon. 
Thirdly, Memory failing to supply the real cause, but offering 
from its stores of acquired knowledge an hypothesis of one 
suited to produce the phenomenon. Lastly, Imagination 
stepping in precisely at this juncture, fastening on this sug 
gestion of memory, and instantly presenting it as a tableau 
vivant, with proper decorations and couleur locale. The only 
intellectual faculty which remains dormant seems to be the 
Judgment, which has allowed memory and imagination to 
work regardless of those limits of probability which she 
would have set to them awake. If, when awake, we feel 

trace of the unconscious cerebration as it was vanishing before the full light 
of conscious life. I accordingly propounded a tentative theory to my friends, 
that the brain uniting upon one thread the fancies and memories present at the 
same time in the mind, is really what takes place in dreams a sort of faint 
shadow of the mind s natural craving for and effort after system and unity. Your 
explanation of dreams, by reference to the myth-making tendency, seems to be 
so nearly in accord with mine that I venture to write on the subject." 

1 Works of Dugald Stewart. Edited by Sir W. Hamilton. Vol. x. p. 321. 

340 DREAMS. 

a pain which we do not wholly understand, say a twinge 
in the foot, we speculate upon its cause only within the 
very narrow series of actual probabilities. It may be a 
nail in our boot, a chilblain, a wasp, or so on. It does not 
even cross our minds that it may be a sworn tormentor 
with red-hot pincers; but the same sensation experienced 
asleep will very probably be explained by a dream of the 
sworn tormentor or some other cause which the relations 
of time and space render equally inapplicable. 1 Let it be 
noted, however, that even in the waking brain a great deal 
of myth-making goes on after the formation of the most 
rational hypothesis. If we imagine that a pain is caused 
by any serious disease, we almost inevitably fancy we ex 
perience all the other symptoms of the malady, of which 
we happen to have heard symptoms which disappear, 
as if by magic, when the physician laughs at our fears, 
and tells us our pain is caused by some trifling local 

Each of my readers could doubtless supply illustrations 

1 The analogy between insanity and a state of prolonged dream is too striking 
to be overlooked by any student of the latter subject. The delusions of insanity 
seem in fact little else but a series of such myths accounting for either sensations 
or sentiments like those above ascribed to dreaming. The maniac sees and hears 
more than a man asleep, and his sensations consequently give rise to numberless 
delusions. He is also usually possessed by some morbid moral sentiment, such 
as suspicion, hatred, avarice, or extravagant self-esteem (held by Dr. Carpenter 
nearly always to precede any intellectual failure), and these sentiments similarly 
give rise to their appropriate delusions. In the first case we have maniacs like 
the poor lady who wrote her confessions to Dr. Forbes "Winslow (" Obscure 
Diseases of the Brain," p. 79), and who describes how, on being taken to an 
asylum, the pillars before the door, the ploughed field in front, and other details, 
successively suggested to her the belief that she was in a Romish convent where 
she would be " scourged and taken to purgatory," and in a medical college where 
the inmates were undergoing a process preparatory to dissection ! In the second 
case, that of morbid Sentiments, we have insane delusions like those which 
prompted the suspicious Rousseau to accuse Hume of poisoning him, and all the 
mournfully grotesque train of the victims of pride who fill our pauper hospitals 
with kings, queens, and prophets. Merely suppose these poor maniacs are re 
counting dreams, and there would be little to remark about them except their 
persistent character. 

DREAMS. 341 

of myth-making as good as that of Dr. Reid. It happened 
to me once to visit a friend delirious from fever, who lay 
in a bed facing a large old mirror, whose gilt wood-frame, 
of Chinese design, presented a series of innumerable spikes, 
pinnacles, and pagodas. On being asked how she was feel 
ing, my poor friend complained of much internal dolour, 
but added with touching simplicity : " And it is no great 
wonder, I am sure ! (whisper) IVe swallowed that looking- 
glass! " Again. A young lady painted her thumb one night 
with extract of aloes to cure herself of the habit of sucking. 
In the morning she woke with her thumb in her mouth 
and the aloes all sucked off. She had dreamed she was sailing 
in a ship of wormwood ; that she drank extract of worm 
wood ; that a doctor ordered her to eat ox-gall, and then 
advised her to consult the Pope, who sent her on pilgrim 
age to Zoar, where she ate the thumb of Lot s wife. 

Again, as regards Sentiments. If we have seen a forbid 
ding-looking beggar in the streets- in the morning, nothing 
is more probable than that our vague and transient sense 
of distrust will be justified by ingenious fancy taking up the 
theme at night, and representing a burglar bursting into 
our bedroom, presenting a pistol to our temples, and at the 
supreme moment disclosing the features of the objectionable 
mendicant. Hope, of course when vividly excited, represents 
for us scores of sweet scenes in which our desire is fulfilled 
with every pleasing variation j and Caire and Fear have, 
alas ! even more powerful machinery for the realization of 
their terrors. The longing of affection for the return of the 
dead has, perhaps more than any other sentiment, the power 
of creating myths of reunion, whose dissipation on awakening 
are amongst the keenest agonies of bereavement. By a sin 
gular semi-survival of memory through such dreams we 
seem always to be dimly aware that the person whose return 
we greet so rapturously has been dead ; and the obvious in- 

342 DREAMS. 

congruity of our circumstances, our dress, and the very 
sorrow we confide at once to their tenderness, with the sight 
of them again in their familiar places, drives our imagination 
to fresh shifts to explain it. Sometimes the beloved one has 
been abroad, and is come home ; sometimes the death was a 
mistake, and some one else was buried in that grave wherein 
we saw the coffin lowered ; sometimes a friendly physician 
has carried away the patient to his own home, and brought 
us there after long months to find him recovered. 

One of the most affecting mythical dreams which have 
come to my knowledge, remarkable also as an instance of 
dream-poetry, is that of a lady who confessed to have been 
pondering on the day before her dream on the many duties 
which " bound her to life." The phrase which I have used 
as a familiar metaphor became to her a visible allegory. 
She dreamed that Life a strong, calm, cruel woman was 
binding her limbs with steel fetters, which she felt as well as 
saw ; and Death, as an angel of mercy, hung hovering in the 
distance, unable to approach or deliver her. In this most 
singular dream her feelings found expression in the following 
touching verses, which she remembered on waking, and which 
she has permitted me to quote precisely in the fragmentary 
state in which they remained on her memory. 

" Then I cried with weary breath, 
Oh be merciful, great Death ! 
Take me to thy kingdom deep. 
Where grief is stilled in sleep, 
Where the weary hearts find rest. 

Ah, kind Death, it cannot be 
That there is no room for me 
In all thy chambers vast .... 
See, strong Life has bound me fast 
Break her chains, and set me free. 

DREAMS. 343 

But cold Death makes no reply, 
Will not hear my bitter cry ; 
Cruel Life still holds me fast ; 
Yet true Death must come at last, 
Conquer Life and set me free. 

A dream once occurred to me wherein the mythical 
character almost assumed the dimensions of the sublime, 
insomuch that I can scarcely recall it without awe. I 
dreamed that I was standing on a certain broad grassy 
space in the park of my old home. It was totally dark, 
but I was aware that I was in the midst of an immense 
crowd. We were all gazing upward into the murky sky, 
and a sense of some fearful calamity was over us, so that no 
one spoke aloud. Suddenly overhead appeared, through a 
rift in the black heavens, a branch of stars which I recog 
nized as the belt and sword of Orion. Then went forth a 
cry of despair from all our hearts ! We knew, though no 
one said it, that these stars proved it was not a cloud or 
mist, which, as we had somehow believed, was causing the 
darkness. No ; the air was clear ; it was high noon, and 
the sun had not risen ! That was the tremendous reason 
why we beheld the stars. The sun would never rise again ! 

In this dream, as it seems to me, a very complicated myth 
was created by my unconscious brain, which having first by 
some chance stumbled on the picture of a crowd in the dark, 
and a bit of starry sky over them, elaborated, to account 
for such facts, the bold theory of the sun not having risen 
at noon ; or (if we like to take it the other way) having hit 
on the idea of the sun s disappearance, invented the appro 
priate scenery of the breathless expectant crowd, and the 
apparition of the stars. 

Next to the myth-creating faculty in dreams, perhaps the 
most remarkable circumstance about them is that which has 
given rise to the world-old notion that dreams are frequently 

344 DREAMS. 

predictions. At the outset of an examination of this matter, 
we are struck by the familiar fact that our most common 
dreams are continually recalled to us within a few hours by 
some insignificant circumstance bringing up again the name 
of the person or place about which we had dreamed. On 
such occasions, as the vulgar say, " My dream is out." 
Nothing was actually predicted, and nothing has occurred 
of the smallest consequence, or ever entailing any conse 
quence, but yet, by some concatenation of events, we dreamed 
of the man from whom we received a letter in the morning ; 
or we saw in our sleep a house on fire, and before the next 
night we pass a street where there is a crowd, and behold ! 
a dwelling in flames. Nay, much more special and out-of- 
the-way dreams than these come " out " very often. If we 
dream of Nebuchadnezzar on Saturday night, it is to be 
expected that on Sunday (unless the new lectionary have 
dispensed with his history) the lesson of the day will pre 
sent us with the ill-fated monarch and his golden image. 
Dreams of some almost unheard-of spot, or beast, or dead- 
and-gone old worthy, which by wild vagary have entered 
our brain, are perpetually followed by a reference to the 
same spot, or beast, or personage, in the first book or news 
paper we open afterwards. To account for such coincidences 
on any rational principle is, of course, difficult. But it is 
at least useful to attempt to do so, seeing that here, at all 
events, the supernatural hypothesis is too obviously absurd 
to be entertained by anybody ; and if we can substitute for 
it a plausible theory in these cases, the same theory may 
serve equally well for problems a little more dignified, and 
therefore more liable to be treated superstitiously. 

In the first place, a moment s reflection will show that the 
same sort of odd coincidences take place continually among 
the trivial events of waking life. " Sitting in my office," 
writes a correspondent, " with the Post Office Directory open 

DREAMS. 345 

before me, my eye happened to glance casually on the name 
of a firm whose place of business was a considerable distance 
away. At that identical moment the door opened and a lady 
entered inquiring the address of the firm in question." It 
has chanced to myself within the last few hours to remark 
to a friend how the word " subtle," applied to the serpent in 
Genesis, is always spelled " subtil," and within a few minutes 
to take up The Index, of Toledo, Ohio, and read the following 
anecdote : " A poor negro preacher was much troubled by the 
cheating of the sutlers of the army which he followed. He 
chose accordingly for the text of his sermon, Now the 
serpent was more sutler than any beast of the field/ etc." 
It will be owned that this is precisely the kind of chance 
coincidence which occurs in dreams, and which, when it hap 
pens to concern any solemn theme, is apt to seem portentous. 
But ascending beyond these trivial coincidences, we arrive 
at a mass of dream-literature tending to show that reve 
lations of all sorts of secrets and predictions of future events 
are made in dreams. Taking them in order, we have, first, 
discoveries of where money, wills, and all sorts of lost 
valuables are to be found, and such dreams have long been 
rightly explained as having their origin in some nearly 
effaced remembrance of information leading naturally to the 
discovery. In sleep the lost clue is recovered by some 
association of thought, and the revelation is made with 
sufficient distinctness to insure attention. A story of the 
sort is told by Macnish about a Scotch gentleman who re 
covered in a dream the address of a solicitor with whom 
his father on one single occasion deposited an important 
document on which the family fortunes ultimately de 
pended. A singular occurrence which took place some 
years ago at the house of the late Earl of Minto in 
Scotland can only be explained in a similar way. An 
eminent lawyer went to pay a few days visit at Minto 

346 DREAMS. 

immediately before the hearing of an important case in 
which he was engaged as counsel. Naturally he brought 
with him the bundle of papers connected with the case, in 
tending to study them in the interval ; but on the morning 
after his arrival the packet could nowhere be found. Careful 
search of course was made for it, but quite in vain, and 
eventually the lawyer was obliged to go into court without 
his papers. Years passed without any tidings of the mys 
terious packet, till the same gentleman found himself again 
a guest at Minto, and, as it happened, occupying the same 
bedroom. His surprise may be imagined when on waking 
in the morning he found his long-lost bundle lying on his 
dressing-table. The presumption of course is, that on the 
first occasion he hid them in his sleep, and on the second 
visit he found them in his sleep ; but where he hid and 
found them has never been discovered. 

An instance of the renewal in sleep of an impression of 
memory calling up an apparition to enforce it (it is the 
impression which causes the apparition, not the apparition 
which conveys the impression) occurred near Bath half a 
century ago. Sir John Miller, a very wealthy gentleman, 
died leaving no children. His widow had always understood 
that she was to have the use of his house for her life with 
a very large jointure ; but no will making such provision 
could be found after his death. The heir-at-law, a distant 
connexion, naturally claimed his rights, but kindly allowed 
Lady Miller to remain for six months in the house to com 
plete her search for the missing papers. The six months 
drew at last to a close, and the poor widow had spent 
fruitless days and weeks in examining every possible place 
of deposit for the lost document, till at last she came to 
the conclusion that her memory must have deceived her, 
and that her husband could have made no such promise as 
she supposed, or have neglected to fulfil it had he made 

DREAMS. 347 

one. The very last day of her tenure of the house had 
just dawned, when in the grey of the morning Lady Miller 
drove up to the door of her man of business in Bath, and 
rushed excitedly to his bed-room door, calling out, " Come 
to me ! I have seen Sir John ! There is a will ! " The 
lawyer hastened to accompany her back to her house. All 
she could tell him was that her deceased husband had ap 
peared to her in the night, standing by her bedside, and 
had said solemnly, " There is a will ! " Where it was, 
remained as uncertain as before. Once more the house was 
searched in vain from cellar to loft, till finally wearied and 
in despair the lady and her friend found themselves in a 
garret at the top of the house. "It is all over/ Lady 
Miller said; "I give it up; my husband deceived me, and 
I am ruined ! " At that moment she looked at the table 
over which she was leaning weeping. "This table was in 
his study once ! Let us examine it ! " They looked, and the 
missing will, duly signed and sealed, was within it, and the 
widow made rich to the end of her days. It needs no con 
juror to explain how her anxiety called up the myth of 
Sir John Miller s apparition, and made him say precisely 
what he had once before really said to her, but of which 
the memory had waxed faint. 

A more difficult class of stories to account for is that of 
tales like the following : 

A lady left her old country house in England and went 
to Australia with her husband, Colonel II. In the house 
she had quitted there was a room in which one of her 
sisters had died, and which the bereaved mother kept con 
stantly shut up. Mrs. H., after some years residence in 
Australia, dreamed that she saw her mother lying dead on 
the bed in this particular room, with certain members of the 
family around her. Noting the dream with some anxiety, 
she received in due time the news that her mother had 

348 DREAMS. 

had a fit in which she died, and that the body had been 
carried into the long-deserted room, and was at one time sur 
rounded by the relatives in question. Here of course the 
coincidences were most remarkable and impressive, if the 
story have come to us with any exactitude a matter, I 
must remark, of which the fallacies of memory, the in 
accuracy of oral transmission, and the unconquerable pro 
pensity of all men to " make things fit " always leaves open 
to doubt. Taking it, as it stands, however, we may notice 
that the removal of her mother s corpse to the deserted 
chamber was not a very singular circumstance in itself, 
while the daughter s dream of her early home was entirely 
in accordance with the common rules of dreams. As a 
sad and mournful feeling suggested the dream (probably 
some reasonable anxiety for her mother s health), it was 
very natural that any analogous solemn or dismal circum 
stances connected with her mother should be woven into 
it. If she dreamed of her mother s death, nothing was 
more dream-like than that she should associate with it the 
previous death of her sister, whom they had mourned to 
gether, and see her mother s corpse upon the bed where 
she had once actually seen that of her sister. Nay, ac 
cording to the laws of dreaming, I conceive that, given the 
case of Mrs. JL, it could hardly happen that she should 
have a sad or anxious dream, of which her old home afforded 
the stage, without making the deserted chamber, which 
must have been the very centre of all solemn thoughts in 
the house, its peculiar scene. 

There appeared some months ago in Cassettes Magazine a 
ghost story narrated by Miss Felicia Skene, which from 
every point of view is probably one of the best instances 
of the kind ever published. A husband, dubious of another 
existence, promised, if possible, to appear to his wife after 
death. His widow went on a visit to some friends, and 

DREAMS. 349 

their little girl slept in her bed. In the night the child 
thought she saw the husband (of whose death she had no 
knowledge) standing by the bedside and looking at his wife 
sorrowfully. The child, who was much attached to him, 
spoke to him, and asked him what present he had brought 
to her, and tried, though unavailingly, to waken the widow 
sleeping beside her. Presently the figure passed into an 
adjoining dressing-room, and the child slept till morning, 
when she instantly ran into the dressing-room, expecting 
to find her old friend. Failing to do so, she followed the 

widow, and asked her eagerly where Mr. had gone. 

An explanation followed. The widow conceived that this 
revelation through the mind of a child was much more 
satisfactory than any which her own senses, excited by 
anticipation, could have brought her, and unhesitatingly 
accepted it as a fact that her husband had come to keep 
his promise. Now, without denying the possibility of such 
spirit visitations, it must, I think, be owned that the easier 
solution even of this story (wherein the circumstances are 
unusually worthy and befitting) is to be found in the dream 
of the child. The widow s presence beside her most naturally 
suggested that of her husband whom she had always pre 
viously associated with her. That, thinking she saw him, 
she should have asked him for his wonted gift, and then 
have thought he went into the next room, were simple in 
cidents of the dream, which was just sufficiently vivid to 
make so young a child confuse it with waking fact first at 
the moment, and much more afterwards, when she found 
great importance attached to it by her elders. 

In these and hundreds of cases of supposed revelations and 
predictions, both given in normal dreams and in various 
states of trance, I conceive that a careful reference to the 
laws of unconscious cerebration will rarely fail, if not to ex 
plain, at least to elucidate, in a manner, the modus operandi of 

350 DREAMS. 

the mystery. Let it be remembered that we have got to do 
with a power which (under conditions imperfectly known to us) 
obtains access to the entire treasury of memory, to the stores 
of facts, words, and transient impressions accumulated during 
our whole lives, and to which in our ordinary consciousness 
we have no means of approach. Those states of abnormal 
remembrance so often described as experienced by drowning 
persons, would, if prolonged through our waking hours, very 
obviously put us in possession of means of judging, balancing, 
and even of foretelling events of which our normal dim and 
disconnected vision of the past affords no parallel. A similar 
faculty, not taking in so vast a sweep, but fastening on some 
special point to which attention is directed, obviously comes 
into play in many states, both of "clairvoyance " and (in a 
lesser degree) in natural dreaming. The very least we can do 
before deciding that any revelation, past, present, or future, 
comes from any other sources than such hyper-cesthetic memory 
and judgment founded on it, is to examine carefully whether 
those faculties must be absolutely insufficient to account for 
it. The notorious fact that such revelations are always con 
terminous with somebody s possible knowledge, gives us, of 
course, the best warrant for doubting that they come from 
any ultra-mundane sphere. 

The only class of dream, I imagine, which escapes the 
myth-making faculty, is the purely intellectual dream, which 
takes place when we have no sensation or sentiment suffi 
ciently vivid to make itself felt in sleep, and the brain merely 
continues to work on at some one of the subjects suggested 
by the calm studies of the previous hours. Such dreams, as 
Dr. Carpenter remarks, have a more uniform and coherent 
order than is common to others ; and it may even happen in 
time that, in consequence of the freedom from distraction 
resulting from the suspension of external influences, the 
reasoning processes may be carried on with unusual vigour 

DREAMS. 351 

and success, and the imagination may develope new and 
harmonious forms of beauty. (Physiology, 5th edit. p. 643.) 
Under this head, then, come all the remarkable cases of 
dreams, of the problems solved by Condorcet, and many 
others. Nearly every one who has been much interested in 
mathematical studies has done something of the kind in his 
sleep, and the stories are numerous of persons rising in sleep 
and writing out lucid legal opinions. 

On the other hand, the absurdities of which the mind is 
capable when dealing with an idea in sleep are beyond 
measure ludicrous. A correspondent, to whom I am indebted 
for many valuable suggestions, sends me the following de 
licious story : " At a time when I was unmarried, I dreamed 
that I returned home in expectation of meeting my wife. 
To my consternation and grief she was transformed into 
a small piece of bread. I was greatly distressed, thinking 
that by some neglect of mine I had brought about the 
sad result. However, I lost no time in endeavouring to 
restore her if possible, and for this purpose I got a small 
basin of water, and held the piece of bread, which I knew 
to be my wife in a transformed state, therein. To my dis 
may I felt the bread gradually melting in my hand, and 
then awoke, greatly distressed in mind at my approaching 
bereavement." At a period of my own life, when my atten 
tion was divided between reading Leibnitz and providing 
soup for the poor in a hard winter, I dreamed that my 
dog had been cruelly boiled down in the soup. Happily 
recollecting, however, that her soul was an " indestructible 
monad," I proceeded to search for it diligently with a ladle 
in the kettle, and discovered it in the shape of a pasta. 

But it is when the sleep is not wholly natural, but stimu 
lated by narcotics, that these mental feats assume their 
most prodigious dimensions. The difference between normal 
dreams and those produced by opiates, so far as I can learn, 

352 DREAMS. 

is mainly this, that in the former we seem always more or 
less active, and, in the latter, passive. Whatever strange 
sights we behold in the natural dream, our own share in 
what is going on is prominent. In the abnormal dream the 
marvellous scenery is by far the most important part of the 
vision. In a word, we are on the stage in the first case, and 
in the stalls in the second. The cause of this singular dis 
tinction must needs be that the action of morphia, haschish, 
etc., paralyzes more completely the voluntary and active 
powers than in natural sleep, wherein, indeed, the true con 
scious will is dormant, but a certain echo of it still survives, 
leaving us the semblance of choice and energy. On the 
other hand, while the opiate obscures even such moonlight 
of volition, it excites the fancy and myth-creating powers 
of the brain to supernatural vigour, causing to pass before 
the eyes of the dreamer whole panoramas of beauty or 
horror. The descriptions of such miseries in the " Confessions 
of an English Opium Eater," and many other books, afford 
amazing evidence of what leaps the Pegasus of fancy is 
capable of taking under the spur of such stimuli on the brain. 
Here also the singular facility in adopting suggestions and 
impressions which distinguishes hypnotism from natural 
dreaming, seems similarly to prevail. All opium-eaters 
speak of the fearful degree in which every painful idea 
presented to them before sleeping becomes magnified into 
portentous visions of terror. A scent suggesting blood, 
caused one gentleman to dream of an army of skin 
less men and headless horses defiling for hours before his 
eyes ; and the " Old Man of the Mountain " no doubt 
contrived to suggest to his assassins, before they ate the 
haschish, those ideas which resulted in their dreams of 
houris and paradise. 

Besides the picturing of marvellous scenes, passively be 
held, it seems that narcotics can stimulate the unconscious 

DREAMS. 353 

brain to the production of poetic or musical descriptions of 
them ; the two actions being simultaneous. Here we have 
surely the most astonishing of all the feats of this mysterious 
power within us ; and whether we choose to regard it as a 
part of our true selves, or as the play of certain portions of 
nerve-matter, in either case the contemplation of it is very 
bewildering. What truth there may be in the well- 
known stories of the composition of " Rousseau s Dream" 
or of Tartini s " Devil Sonata," I cannot pretend to decide. 
In any case it is admitted that several musical productions 
have been composed in sleep. But take the poem of 
"Kubla Khan." Eemember that the man who wrote it 
only rose, in a very few of his multitudinous waking pro 
ductions, into the same region of high poetical fancy 
or inspiration of verse. Then see him merely reading, 
half asleep, the tolerably prosaic sentence out of Purchas 
" Pilgrimage : " " Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace 
to be built, and a stately garden thereunto, and thus ten 
miles of fertile ground were inclosed in a wall." And, 
dropping his book, from this mere bit of green sod of 
thought he suddenly springs up like a lark into the very 
heaven of fancy, with the vision of a paradise of woods and 
waters before his eyes and such sweet singing breaking from 
his lips as, 

" The shadow of the dome of pleasure 
Floated midway o er the waves," 

interspersed with weird changes and outbursts such as only 
music knows : 

" It was an Abyssinian maid, 
And on her dulcimer she played, 
Singing of Mount Abora ! " 

Consider all this, and that the poem of which this is the 
fragment reached at least the length of three hundred lines, 


354 DREAMS. 

and then say what limits shall be placed on the powers 
which lie hidden within our mortal coil ! 

This poem of " Kubla Khan " has long stood, though not 
quite alone as a dream poem, yet as far the largest and most 
singular piece so composed on record. A friend has per 
mitted me now to publish another dream poem, not, indeed, 
of similar aesthetic merit, but in a psychological point of view 
perhaps even more curious, seeing that the dreamer in her 
waking hours is not a poet, and that the poem she dreamed 
is in French, in which language she can speak fluently, but 
in which she believes herself utterly unable to compose a 
verse. It has been suggested that in this case the act of 
unconscious cerebration may be one of memory rather than 
of creative fancy, and that the lady may, at some time of 
her life, have read the poem thus reproduced in sleep. Such 
a feat would of itself be sufficiently curious, seeing that she 
has not the smallest waking recollection of having ever seen 
the lines; and they occurred to her (just as "Kubla Khan" 
did to Coleridge) not as a piece of literature, but as the de 
scription of a scene she actually beheld simultaneously with 
the occurrence to her mind of its poetical narrative. But I 
conceive that the great inaccuracies of rhyme in the poem 
render it more than doubtful whether it can ever have been 
published as a French composition. " Espoir," made to 
correspond with " effroi," and " vert " with " guerre," are the 
sort of false rhymes which an English ear (especially in 
sleep) might easily disregard, but which no French poet, 
accustomed to the strict rules of his own language, could 
overlook. If I err in this conclusion, and any reader of this 
little paper can recall having already seen the lines elsewhere, 
I shall be extremely obliged for the correction. 

Let it be borne in mind that the dreamer saw all she 
describes as in a vision, and that in the middle of the dream, 
between the morning and evening visions, there intervened a 

DREAMS. 355 

blank and pause, as if a cloud filled the scene. As in the 
case of Coleridge, the lady had taken morphia in moderate 
quantity before her dream. 

Ce matin du haut de 1 ancienne tourelle 
J e"coutais la voix de la sentinelle, 
Qui criait a ceux qui passent la-bas 
A travers le pont Dis ! Qui va Id ? 

Et toutes les reponses si pleines d espoir 
Remplirent mon coeur d un vague efFroi ; 
Car le chagrin est de 1 espoir le fruit, 
Et le suit, comme au jour suit la sombre nuit. 

Qui va la ? 

Un beau jeune homme sur un coursier fier, 
A 1 epee luisante, au drapeau vert, 
S en va tout joyeux rejoindre la guerre ; 
II chante, " Je reviens glorieux ! " 

Qui va la ? 

Une blonde jeune fille sur un palefroi gris, 
En habit de page, vert et cramoisi ; 
Elle murmure, " Je veille sur mon bien cheri," 
Et le suit en souriant doucement. 

Qui va la ? 

Un bon vieillard, ses cheveux sont blancs, 
II porte un sac, comme 1 or brille dedans ! 
II le cache bien de ses doigts tremblants 
Et grommele, " Je me ferai riche ! " 

Qui va la ? 

Un joli enfant conduit sa soeur 
A travers les champs cueillir des fleurs : 
" Nous t en donnerons a notre retour," 
Us disent en riant follement. 

(Here occurred a long pause.) 

356 DREAMS. 

La nuit s abaisse sur 1 ancienne tourelle, 
Ecoute encore a la sentiiielle, 
Qui crie a ceux qui passent la-bas 
A travers le pont Dis ! Qui va Id ? 

II vient, tout sanglaut, un coursier fier, 
La selle est vide, mais il traine par terre 
Un mourant, qui serre un drapeau vert : 
Bientdt il ne gemira plus. 

Qui va Id ? 

Une blonde jeune fille sur un palefroi gris, 
En habit de page, vert et cramoisi, 
Qui suit tout eperdue son bien che"ri, 
Et qui prie d une voix dechirante. 

Qui va Id ? 

Un triste vieillard, ses cheveux sont blancs, 
II porte un sac, il n y a rien dedans ! 
Et dit, en tordant ses doigts tremblants, 
"Ah c est dur de perdre tout /" 

Qui va la ? 

Un joli enfant qui porte sa soaur : 
" Un serpent glissant parmi les fleurs 
L a pique. Mais vois ! Elle dort sans pleurs ? " 
Cher petit ! Elle n en versera plus ! 

Another dream poem, which a correspondent has been so 
good as to send to me, is interesting in a different way. It 
was composed in a dream on the night of August 23, 1866, 
by the Rev. W. H. Taylor, Principal of the Grammar School 
of Houghton-le-Spring ; and the author died of fever about 
a week afterwards. 


Lord ! my weary soul is yearning, 

Yearning for its home of rest ; 
Anxious eyes for ever turning 

Towards the mansions of the blest. 

DREAMS. 357 

But the warfare is not over ; 

Foes without, and foes within, 
Fiercely o er my path assail me, 

Tempt me with the bait of sin. 

Faint and stricken in the battle, 

I raise my feeble hands and cry, 
Save me, save me, Abba, Father ! 

Save me, save me, or I die. 

Then a voice comes softly, sweetly, 

Bringing peace, expelling fear, 
Cheers my drooping spirit, saying, 

Courage, Christian ! God is near. 

Then revived, encouraged, strengthened, 

Onward I my steps pursue, 
Looking upward, looking homeward, 

Keep the golden gates in view. 

Then, oh then, dear Lord, receive me, 

Ope the gates, and let me in, 
To thy loving bosom take me, 

Kansomed, pardoned, freed from sin. 

Lastly, we come to the point wherein I conceive that 
dreams throw most light on the separability of the self from 
the automatically- working brain. The absence of the Moral 
Sense in dreams is a matter touched upon in my former 
essay, on which I have received the most varied communi 
cations. On one hand two esteemed friends have assured me 
that their consciences are occasionally awake in sleep; on 
the other, a great many more tell me that their experience 
entirely corroborates my somewhat hazarded observations. 
For example, an admirable and most kind-hearted lady 
palmed off a bad sixpence on a beggar, and chuckled at the 
notion of his disappointment when he should discover her 
deception. A distinguished philanthropist, exercising for 

358 DREAMS. 

many years high judicial functions, continually commits for 
gery, and only regrets the act when he learns that he is to be 
hanged. A woman, whose life at the time of her dream was 
devoted to the instruction of pauper children, seeing one of 
them make a face at her, doubled him up into the smallest 
compass, and poked him through the bars of a lion s cage. 
One of the most benevolent of men, who shared not at all 
in the military enthusiasm of his warlike brothers (the 
late Mr. Richard JSFapier), ran his best friend through the 
body, and ever after recalled the extreme gratification he 
had experienced on seeing the point of his sword come out 
through the shoulders of his beloved companion. Other 
crimes committed in dreams need not be here recorded ; 
but I am persuaded that if we could but know all the 
improper things done by the most proper people in their 
sleep with the utmost sangfroid and completely unblushing 
effrontery, the picture would present a diverting contrast to 
our knowledge of them in their conscious hours. 

If the moral sense be not wholly suppressed in sleep, 
there is certainly enough evidence to conclude that it is 
only exceptionally active, and chiefly, if not solely so, in 
the case of dreams assuming the character of nightmares, 
in which the consciousness is far less perfectly dormant than 
in others. Let it be understood that I do not deny the 
presence of the peculiar dread and horror of remorse in 
sleep. As it is undoubtedly the worst torture of which 
the mind is susceptible, so it is the form of mental suffering 
which continually presents itself in the crisis and climax 
of imaginary woe in a nightmare or in insanity. But this 
has nothing to do with the normal consciousness of right and 
wrong, the sense that what we are actually doing is morally 
good or bad ; a sense which is never wholly absent in our 
waking hours, and which (as I conceive) is never present 
in a perfectly natural dream. If the experience of my 

DREAMS. 359 

readers do not lead them to correct this opinion, then I 
must be permitted to urge that the discovery of such a law 
as that which excludes the moral sense from dreams must 
needs point to some important conclusion concerning the 
nature of unconscious cerebration. If such cerebration be 
in any way to be described as our own work, how is it 
possible that so intimate, so indissoluble a part of ourselves 
as our sense of the moral character of actions should be 
regularly absent ? To divide the idea of a cruel deed from 
a sense of loathing, or a base one from a sense of contempt, 
would be an impossible feat for us to accomplish awake. 
Our perception of such acts is simultaneously a perception 
of their moral hideousness; yet we do this in dreams, not 
merely occasionally, but, as I conceive, as a rule of which 
the exceptions, if any, are extremely rare. 

Nay, further. A great proportion of the passions of 
our dreams seem often not reflexes of those experienced in 
former hours of consciousness, but altogether foreign to 
our natures, past and present. Passions which never for 
a moment sullied our consciousness, sentiments the very 
antitheses of those belonging to our idiosyncrasies, present 
themselves in sleep, and are followed out by their ap 
propriate actions, just as if we were not ourselves at all, 
but, in one case, a Jack Shepherd, or in another a Caligula. 
The man who would go to the stake rather than do a dis 
honourable act, imagines himself cheating at cards ; the 
woman who never voluntarily hurt a fly, chops a baby into 

The theory of Dugald Stewart, that the Will is not dor 
mant in dreams, but has merely lost the power of controlling 
the muscles, 1 seems to me entirely inadequate to fit cases 
like these. If the will were awake, it must inevitably rebel 
against acts so repugnant to it, even if it were powerless 
1 Dugald Stewart s Works, vol. ii. p. 292. 

360 DREAMS. 

to prevent the brain from inventing them. A sense of dis 
cord and trouble would reign in our dreams as of " a house 
divided against itself." The fact that nothing of the kind 
is experienced, and that we have, notoriously, not even 
a sense of surprise in dreams when we find ourselves 
committing the most atrocious outrages, is surely suffi 
cient to prove that the true self is not merely impotent but 

Finally, not only the absence of the moral sense in dreams, 
but also the absence of all sense of mental fatigue in them, 
appears to point to the same conclusion. In dreams we 
never experience that weariness which invariably in waking 
hours follows all sustained volition. Wide and wild as may 
be our flights of fancy, no feather of our wings seems to droop 
after them. But exertion of will is the most laborious of 
all things, whether it be employed to attend to a subject 
of study, to create a fanciful story, or to direct our limbs in 
unwonted actions. It has been truly remarked, that if the 
laws of our constitution required us to perform a separate 
act of volition for every muscular motion we make in the 
course of twenty-four hours, in other words, if there were 
no such power as that of automatic action, we should ex 
pire of the fatigue of a single day s exertion ; nay, of the 
mere rising up and sitting down, and washing and brushing 
and buttoning, and moving our legs down stairs, and cut 
ting and buttering and chewing and swallowing, and all the 
numberless little proceedings which must be gone through 
before even breakfast is accomplished. Nature has so ar 
ranged it that we learn the various arts of walking, eating, 
dressing, etc., etc., one by one, and at an age when we have 
nothing else to do; so that when the further lessons of how 
to read, to write, and so on, have to be learned, the rudiments 
of life s business have long before passed into the class of 
voluntary acts over which unconscious cerebration is quite 

DREAMS. 361 

sufficiently sensible to preside. And this unconscious brain- 
work never seems to tire us at all ; whether it consists in 
setting our feet and eyes going in the proper direction for 
walking or riding, or in painting for us the choicest galleries 
of pictures in dreamland, or composing for us as many novels 
as taxed the imagination of Alexandre Dumas. It is the 
conscious Self alone whose exertions ever flag, and for whose 
repose merciful Nature has deserved the blessing of Sancho 
Panza on " the man who invented sleep." 

Take it how we will, I think it remains evident that in 
dreams (except those belonging to the class of nightmare 
wherein the will is partially awakened) we are in a condition 
of entire passivity ; receiving impressions indeed from the 
work which is going on in our brains, but incurring no 
fatigue thereby, and exempted from all sense of moral re 
sponsibility as regards it. The instrument on which we are 
wont to play has slipped from our loosened grasp, and its 
secondary and almost equally wondrous powers have become 
manifest. It is not only a finger-organ, but a self-acting 
one; which, while we lie still and listen, goes over, more 
or less perfectly, and with many a quaint wrong note and 
variation, the airs which we performed on it yesterday, or 
long ago. 

Is this instrument ourselves ? Are we quite inseparable 
from this manufactory of thoughts ? If it never worked 
except by our volition and under our control, then, indeed, 
it might be difficult to conceive of our consciousness apart 
from it. But every night a different lesson is taught us. 
The brain, released from its bit and rein, plays like a colt 
turned to pasture, or, like the horse of the miller, goes round 
from left to right to relieve itself from having gone round 
from right to left all the day before. Watching these in 
stinctive sports and relaxations by which we benefit, but in 
whose direction we have no part, do we not acquire the con- 

362 DREAMS. 

viction that the dreaming brain-self is not the true self for 
whose moral worthiness we strive, and for whose existence 
after death alone we care? ""We are of the stuff which 
dreams are made of." Not wholly so, mighty poet- 
philosopher ! In that " stuff" there enters not the noblest 
element of our nature ; that Moral Will which allies us, 
not to the world of passing shadows, but to the great 
Eternal Will, in whose Life it is our hope that we shall 
live for ever. 





CERTAIN well-known coarse attempts to "unmask" the 
Confessional seem to have effected a purpose very remote 
from that which their originators designed. By fixing the 
public mind on gross abuses, which no one seriously appre 
hends to see revived in the hands of English clergymen, 
attention has been diverted from the real point at issue, 
namely, the moral or immoral, spiritual or unspiritual, ten 
dency of the practice of Auricular Confession under ordinary 
and favourable circumstances. In the following pages, I 
propose to leave aside altogether any consideration of the 
evils accidental to the practice, and to pass no judgment on 

1 Tracts for the Day. 1 vol. 8vo. London : Longmans. 1868. 

A Help to Repentance. By the Eev. Vernon Huttoii. 4th thousand. London : 

Pardon through the Precious Blood, or the Benefit of Absolution. Edited by 
a Committee of Clergy. 22nd thousand. London : Palmer. 1870. 

The Ordinance of Confession. By William Gresley. 2nd edition. Masters. 

The Church and the World. Edited by the Eev. Orby Shipley. Article, 
"Thirty Years in the English Church." 1st series. Longmans. 1866. 

The Church and the World. Article, "Private Confession and Absolution." 
2nd series. Longmans. 1867. 


the narratives rife through Southern Europe, concerning 
"Priests, Women and families." I shall attempt to study 
as candidly as possible the inherent moral character of such 
an act as regular confession to a priest, and draw such con 
clusions as may seem warranted regarding the attitude to be 
observed towards the present revival of the practice. That 
the inquiry is not untimely may be judged by any one who 
will take the trouble to inform himself of what the whole 
High- Church party are now doing in this matter, and to 
what extent all over the country they are raising a claim 
to receive the confessions of their flocks as a regular portion 
of their office. 

In a world in which Sin occupies the place it holds to-day 
on our planet, it would seem almost superfluous to protest 
against the use of any method which aims at its repression. 
The evils within and around us may well be thought great 
enough to occupy all our energies, without turning our hand 
against those who are honestly contending against them also, 
even if they employ tactics which we deem ill advised and 
indiscreet. "Let us leave these High- Churchmen," we are in 
clined to say, " to make what efforts they please to stem the 
flood of vice in our great cities. If we do not augur much 
success for their attempt, at least we honour their zeal, and 
are fully persuaded that to do anything is better than to do 
nothing." Such first impressions are even in a certain way 
deepened if we chance to read the manuals of penitence 
prepared by our English Father- Confessors, such as those 
quoted at the head of this article. The serious tone 
of these books, free from taint of cant, and the exalted 
standard of morality in word and deed obviously accepted by 
their authors, claim the highest respect ; nor can any reader 
doubt that it is real sin, not mere ecclesiastical error, which 
is attacked, and real goodness, not mere sheep-like obedience, 
which is inculcated. 


But whatever be the good intentions, the honesty and 
the zeal, of the modern revivers of the Confessional in our 
churches, the question is not altered : Is the practice of 
Auricular Confession to a priest spiritually or morally ex 
pedient ? Are its natural results strengthening or weaken 
ing to the mind? Must it make a man feel more deeply 
the burden of his sins, or teach him to cast them off on 
the shoulders of another? Will it (for this is the crucial 
question of all) will it bring the sinful soul nearer, in the 
deep solitudes of the spiritual world, to the One only Source 
of purity and restoration, and help it to look straight up 
into the face of God; or will it, on the contrary, thrust a 
priest always between man and *his Maker to intercept 
even the embrace of the returning Prodigal in his Father s 
arms ? 

In the endeavour to find the solution of these questions, 
it will of course be necessary to leave considerable margin 
for differences of moral condition such as exist at all times in 
a given population a margin which ought to be still further 
enlarged when we include in our survey a long period of 
history and the inhabitants of both barbarous and civilized 
lands. The practice of which the benefits may outweigh its 
disadvantages, or which may have few disadvantages at all, 
when applied to a child or a savage, to lawless mediaeval 
barons or brutish serfs, may do indefinitely more harm 
than good when used by full-grown and educated people 
in the nineteenth century. Our object in the present 
paper being a practical one, we shall limit our scope 
to the class and nation which the revival of Auricular 
Confession in England alone concerns, and ask : How is it 
likely to affect English men and women from the age of 
confirmation to the end of life, and from the highest social 
and intellectual rank down to that level of poverty and 
stupidity against which the waves of clerical zeal break 


for ever in vain ? We must assume average intelligence, 
average religious feeling, and, especially, average moral 
condition. The old Church of England principle, that men 
burdened with any " grievous crime " should seek relief 
from confession to "any discreet and learned minister of 
God s word," is one whose wisdom we are not at all inclined 
to dispute ; and it is only with the extension of this reason 
able rule from the exceptional to the general and universal, 
that we are now concerned. An elaborate defence of such 
extension may be seen in one of the books at the head of 
this article ; l but, when it was published, twenty years ago, 
English High-Churchmen had not gone by any means so 
far in their inculcation of Confession as they do at present ; 
and Mr. Gresley was ready to admit that " in foreign 
churches where Confession is compulsory and periodical, 
there is danger of formality " (p. 135) ; and that women 
may be led to rely too much on their priests (p. 137), even 
while he set forth the innumerable reasons why people 
should renew their confessions and seek " ghostly counsel 
again and again. More recent manuals (among which 
Pardon through the Precious Blood, edited by a Commit 
tee of Clergymen, appears to be most authoritative) take 
it seemingly for granted that every one needs Confession 
as much as he needs the perpetual pardon of God ; and the 
forms recommended for use always refer to the " last Confes 
sion," as if the Anglican, like the Romish penitent, made 
it, as a matter of course, a regular practice. The religious 
life seems understood by these teachers to commence nor 
mally only by a General Confession, just as an Evangelical 
believes it to commence by " Conversion." The vivid sense 
of sinfulness (which is the one natural fact of the case) must, 
as they hold it, rigorously take the shape of Auricular 
Confession to make it available. " Mere" private contrition 
1 The Ordinance of Confession, by the Rev. "William Gresley. 


of heart and amendment of life, they treat as wholly un 
satisfactory and incomplete, carrying with them no promise 
of Divine pardon. Not to speak disrespectfully, they 
practically affirm that a man must repent en regie confess 
to a priest, do penance, and be absolved or his repentance 
will still need to be repented of. Thus Confession has 
ceased to be an exceptional action, and has become the 
regular practice of a religious life. It is not to be applied 
as a specific remedy in cases of acute disease. It is to be 
used like a daily ablution, as the proper means of purifica 
tion and health. 

Putting aside, then, cases of offenders who have com 
mitted heinous offences, we shall suppose the instance of a 
person of ordinary character and circumstances in the con 
dition of mind desired by the preachers of Confession. 
He is sensible of his sinfulness, and (a point to which 
we shall hereafter refer) very much terrified by fear of 
hell-fire. His pastors instruct him that his private peni 
tence, whatever may be its intensity, affords no sort of 
security that the benefits of the " Precious Blood " shall 
be applied to his particular soul, and that to obtain such 
security he must confess to a priest who has received at 
his ordination the commission, " Whose sins thou dost 
forgive, they are forgiven ; and whose sins thou dost re 
tain, they are retained." Goaded by remorse and terror, 
he is taught further to lash his feelings to excitement by 
such representations as these : " Look at His sacred body 
nailed to the cross ; see His flesh torn and mangled, 
dripping with blood ; this is the work of thy sins. Thy 
sins have opened His wounds and made them bleed 
afresh; they have torn wider the rents in His hands and 
feet/ 1 Finally, he makes up his mind to come to confes 
sion and (as he is assured) become " clean " and safe. What 
1 The Precious Blood, p. 20. 


are the moral and spiritual results likely to follow such 
an act? 

In the first place, the long and close self-examination 
which is ordered as a preliminary, may, when first practised 
by a hitherto thoughtless person, very probably open quite 
a new view to a man of his own character. In some special 
cases it may perhaps even do the invaluable service of 
teaching a self-satisfied Pharisee that he ought to put him 
self in the place of the Publican. Some festering secrets 
of souls may be healed simply by being brought to light, 
and spectres dissolved into air by being fairly faced. Long 
cherished hatred may be tracked to its root, and a selfish 
life looked at for once as a whole in its proper colours. 
All these good results, I freely admit, may follow from 
the self-examination which is required before Confession, 
and which (it may be added) has formed a recognized por 
tion of all metanoia, from the days of Pythagoras and 
David to our own. But how of the Confession itself ? 
What good or harm is to be done to such a mind as we 
have supposed, by the process of kneeling down in a vestry 
before a clergyman, making the sign of the cross, and then 
for about a quarter of an hour (or, in some cases, for five 
or six hours) going over the events of life seriatim : " I 
accuse myself of" this falsehood, that unkindness, and so 
on? If the individual be so ignorant of morals as not 
to know what is sinful and what is innocent, it must 
be a great benefit to him to receive instruction from his 
Confessor, provided always that he is what priests un 
fortunately, by some twist of mental conformation, seem 
very rarely to be a sound and healthy moralist. In such 
a case, the Confessional may obviously be a useful school of 
ethics. But it is surely no small disgrace to our spiritual 
guides if it should be needed as such, and if their flocks 
have been so little instructed in the principles of upright- 


ness and charity, as not to know beforehand what is right 
and what is wrong, and to require to wait till they have 
sinned, to know what is sinful. 

That the fear of having hereafter to confess a sin may 
sometimes possibly keep a man from committing it, is 
another argument for the usefulness of the Confessional 
as a moral agent, on which I need not enlarge. Such a 
motive would, of course, have no ethical value, and as to 
its deterrent force, may plausibly be balanced against the 
encouragement (found undoubtedly by Romish criminals, 
bandits, etc., and possibly, therefore, also by Anglicans) 
in the assurance of pardon, obtainable at any moment, by 
priestly absolution. When we have descended to so low 
a level of motive in the one case, we are called on to do 
the like in the other. 

Lastly, there is a very great and important result of 
the practice of Confession, which to some of its upholders 
doubtless appears among its chief advantages, but which 
I must be excused for classing altogether in another cate 
gory, namely, the enormous influence given thereby to the 
priesthood over the minds of their flocks. To treat fully 
of this matter, and to trace the share of her confessors 
in building up the vast edifice of the authority of the 
Church of Rome, would need, not a few paragraphs in 
an article, but several volumes. That the influence of 
the clergy of the Church of England would ever be as 
evil as that of their brethren of the Church of Rome, I 
am far from believing ; but with the warning of all 
history before our eyes, I think that he must be a bold 
man, indeed, who should desire to place in the hands 
of any priesthood on earth a power whose most partial 
misuse means ecclesiastical despotism, and the mental 
and moral slavery of all the weaker minds of the com 



Turning now to the disadvantages of the practice of Con 
fession, we may observe three points in particular : 

1. The fostering of a materialistic and mechanical view 
of religion. 

2. The enervation of the moral constitution. 

3. The desecration of the inner spiritual life by the 
exposure to a priest of the most sacred recesses of the 
penitent soul. 

1. In nearly every essay and manual on the subject of Con 
fession, the practice is recommended as indispensable to give 
reality to repentance. So long as a man s feelings of contri 
tion are hid in his own bosom, or only poured out in prayer 
to God in his chamber, of what avail (it is asked) are they ? 
" To look calmly," says the author of the essay on the 
Seven Sacraments in the Tracts for the Day (p. 59), "at the 
cry, Go direct to Christ, what does it mean ? . . . The Pro 
testant directs the penitent to rely wholly and entirely on 
his own internal feelings ; he is not to go out of himself for 
pardon and grace. From the beginning to the end of the 
operation, it is something worked out in the mind and 

heart of the sinner How different is the faith of the 

Catholic Church and the practice of the Catholic penitent ! " 
Yery different indeed, we may truly echo, since this is as 
good an illustration as could be chosen of the difference 
between spiritual and sacerdotal religion. An operation, 
even the blessed operation of penitence and restoration, is of 
no value, it seems, in Catholic eyes, if it be merely " worked 
out in the mind and heart of the sinner." A mere change of 
mind and heart, from the love of sin to the love of God, 
the alpha and omega of religion, the change for whose 
accomplishment in the inner man some sanguine Protestants 
imagine all Catholic machinery to be honestly, though 
clumsily, designed, this greatest of all spiritual events, 
over which Christ thought that angels rejoice in heaven, is, 


after all, we are told, most unsatisfactory and incomplete, 
if it be not accompanied by spoken confession to a priest, 
penance of outward act, and the receipt of duly autho 
rized priestly absolution. A man who only prays in the 
chamber where Christ told him to pray, does not "go out 
of himself." It is not " going out of" oneself to pray alone. 
T/iat, we presume, is a mere subjective phenomenon, liable, 
as the author presently points out, to land us in grievous 
error. To "go out of" oneself, it is necessary to do a great 
deal more (at least in priestly view) than only to rise up from 
the swine s husks in the " far country " and return to the 
Father s feet. It is necessary to speak to a man a real, 
tangible, audible man not merely to the unseen and silent 
Spirit. Speaking to God is not properly a real act; and 
as for listening to His whispers in the soul of reproof or 
pardon, it is the most dangerous thing in the world. We 
must speak to the priest, and hear from the priest that 
we are absolved, and then we may know we have repented 
and are "safe." All other knowledge, whether of the sin 
cerity of our contrition or of the renewal of communion 
which God has granted to us, is to be taken as mere illusion, 
or at best as wholly untrustworthy. We have not " gone 
out of ourselves" from first to last. 

Is it too much to say that this is the true if not the 
only infidelity, even the distrust of spiritual, and the 
reliance on physical, facts, displayed in dealing with the 
very crisis of the soul s history ? 

The same observations apply to the subjects of Penance 
and Absolution, in which the sense of Repentance is 
assumed by the same teachers to be visionary till it has 
done something else beside undoing as far as may be the 
evil repented of ; and the sense of Restoration is disallowed 
till a form of words has been pronounced over the penitent 
by the priest. 


Again, the usual practice of allotting for Penance the 
repetition of certain prayers, in the Anglican as in the 
Roman Catholic Church, goes a little further in the direc 
tion of the mechanical and the profane. Contemplating 
such a portent as a clergyman ordering, and his penitent 
performing, such an act as that of prayer to the Father in 
heaven as a punishment, or (as one of our manuals describes 
it, as an improvement on this notion) as a " token of obedi 
ence to the Church," we are tempted to ask, Do either con 
fessor or penitent know what Prayer means ? Do they, who 
use it, as we know, with so much constancy and reverence in 
their perpetual services, do they understand that it is some 
thing more than a funzione, as the Italians say that it may 
be life s greatest joy, humanity s highest glory? It cannot 
be but that such devoted men must know it. How, then, 
can they endure to make of it a "penance" ? Are children 
punished by sending them to their parent s arms, or made to 
"show obedience" to the nurse by seeking their father s face ? 

Again, the notion of Sin itself is by these Anglicans 
strangely materialized. They manifestly hold very high 
and pure conceptions of right and wrong acts and senti 
ments ; but the reasons why the sinner is to regret and 
abhor his sins are set forth in a way to lead us to imagine 
that the hatefulness of bad deeds and feelings, and the loss 
by the sinful soul of that divine light below whose plane 
it has fallen, are not by any means the sole or worst evils 
involved. The two great evils, on the contrary, seem to be, 
first, that if the soul leaves the body in a state of sin, " it will 
be driven away from Gfod, and be plunged into a place of 
darkness and misery for ever ;" and, secondly, that the sin 
ner s offences have had a part in causing the sufferings of 
Christ. " By thine uncleanness," the penitent is advised 
to say to his soul, "thou hast scourged his body with 
the most painful stripes. Thou hast had no mercy on 


his adorable body/ etc. 1 Thus, as usual in the orthodox 
system, a man s mind is forcibly diverted from his own 
moral guilt to vivid images of Christ s physical sufferings, 
which (even supposing them to have had a mysterious ante 
dated connexion with his sins) were certainly not intended 
by him to be aggravated, and therefore are not properly the 
subjects of his genuine contrition. Having really maliciously 
injured his neighbour A., or been too selfish to help B., he 
is advised, not to think about his behaviour or feelings 
towards A. or B., but to goad himself to tortures of remorse 
for having hurt C., who died long before he was born, 
and who he believes now reigns the King of Paradise. 
Instead of writhing under the load of his present shame 
and guilt, he is urged to ponder on the dangers of exposure 
at the day of judgment and of the punishment of his sins 
in eternity. Always, it is the material consequence to him 
self or to his Saviour, not his actual moral guilt, which is 
insisted upon. 

The conception of Sin as a series of definite wrong acts 
which can be catalogued and rehearsed, rather than as an 
evil state of the heart which God alone can fully know, 
is another instance of materialism. Unless in the case of 
heinous offences, it would seem as if the idea of a general 
confession of misdoings and omissions were, to an enlight 
ened conscience, something almost absurd. The thing to 
be confessed above all the only thing, in fact, which very 
much concerns us is just what such a catalogue must omit. 
Many a man presenting a long list of actual sins to his 
confessor might obviously be immeasurably better than one 
who could hardly tax himself with the omission of a single 
tithe- giving of mint, anise or cummin, but whose heart and 
will had swerved from God altogether. 

1 The Precious Blood, p. 20. N.B. This little book is bound in crimson, and 
is altogether as sensational as typography and literary dress can make it. 


Finally, as regards this department of our subject, it 
ought to be carefully weighed what meaning is attached 
to the assurance, tendered to the penitent, that he is 
"CLEAN NOW." The desire that our sins should never 
have been committed, is of course the very first sentiment 
of natural repentance ; but this being a matter which even 
God cannot change, no man, it is to be presumed, thinks 
of asking for it. Again, the desire that God should purify 
all that is evil in us now, should " give us a clean heart and 
renew a right spirit within us," is the supreme prayer of 
every contrite soul; but it is one whose response must 
come, if it come at all, in a spiritual fact about which we 
alone may have cognizance, and concerning which a priest s 
assurance must necessarily go for nothing. If a man find 
his spirit really " renewed," filled with hatred of the sin he 
cherished, and of love to God and goodness, it is of the 
smallest possible consequence to him whether anybody tell 
him that such is, or is not, the case. On the other hand, if 
he feel his heart still full of evil passions, it is a ghastly 
mockery to tell him he is " clean," in any sense such as that 
which we are now considering. There remains, then, only 
for the word, as employed in the manuals of confessors, the 
old sense in which it was used by Hebrews and Brahmins, 
Romans and Aztecs, the sense of a magical removal of guilt, 
attainable, as was supposed, by means of a scapegoat, a 
Soma sacrifice, a Taurobolia, or a human victim. This is 
not the place to criticize these crude notions of half- 
civilized races, but it may be remarked that of all the 
eight different ways in which, as the lamented McLeod 
Campbell told us, the Christian doctrine of the Atonement 
may be understood, the lowest possible is that which assimi 
lates it to these heathen rites ; first, by representing Christ s 
sacrifice as a device to save men, not from the dominion 
of sin, but from its punishment ; and then by making the 


application of the benefit depend, not on a spiritual identi 
fication of the sinful soul by faith and love with its supposed 
sinless Redeemer, but on a practical transaction between 
the man and a priest who acts as Christ s delegate, 
and conveys to him a legal absolution. Throughout the 
whole treatment of the subject by the Anglican advocates 
of Confession, it will also be observed that the object pro 
fessedly sought is "Pardon," in the sense in which that word 
is distinguished from "Forgiveness"; namely, as representing 
the Remission of a Penalty, not the Reconciliation of an 
offended Friend. No priest presumes to tell his penitent 
that Gfod, through his mouth, assures him of the restoration 
of His Fatherly love and freedom of communion. That 
fact, like the fact of a renewed spirit, must be felt to be 
believed ; and the voices of all the priests in Christendom 
could do nothing to make it either more or less certain. 
But the magical expiation which secures the remission of 
a remote penalty, is a matter on which sacerdotal authority 
may successfully pronounce that it has been accurately ac 

Whether anxiety for escape from punishment be, or be 
not, a proper feature of genuine penitence, is a question 
which has been much obscured by the intrusion of the 
monstrous doctrine of Eternal Perdition into the natural 
view of the subject. No amount of religion or virtue could 
enable a man willingly to renounce religion and virtue to 
all eternity ; and therefore, so long as any one believes that 
his sins may incur everlasting banishment from God, he is 
compelled to crave eagerly for the remission of their pun 
ishment. But the moment this threat is removed, the case 
is altered. Genuine contrition occupies itself very little 
about the suffering which we may have entailed on ourselves 
by sin ; nay, in cases of poignant self-reproach and remorse, 
the prospect of such suffering is undoubtedly far from 


unwelcome, but rather a relief. That " justice should 
be done/ even though we lie prostrate beneath it, is the 
noblest sentiment of the repentant soul ; the one by which 
it most surely re-assumes its filial relationship to the Lord 
of Justice. To encourage an opposite frame of mind, and 
inspire urgent desire for escape from punishment, with re 
course to such a method as priestly absolution for avoiding 
it, is assuredly very far from an elevating system of religious 
training. The slave shrinks from the lash, and appeals 
to the Overseer to intercede on his behalf. The son cries, 
"Punish me, for I have deserved punishment, but only 
receive me again. That is all I desire." 

A very marked distinction has existed at all times be 
tween the two kinds of sacrifices ; those which were intended 
for a propitiation and vicarious satisfaction for sin, and those 
which were meant as expressions of love and devotion, and 
of the inner sense of the rightfulness that all which man is 
and has should be given to God. The High-Church clergy, 
like the extreme Evangelicals, insist on treating the death 
of Christ in the former light, and outrun them in making 
the Eucharist a magical appropriation of that event ; a 
" feeding on a sacrifice." But the Anglicans alone of the 
two parties in the National Church have attempted to re 
store, not only the vicarious, but the devotional type of 
sacrifice, and by their whole scheme of an ornate cultus 
and perpetual services and ceremonies, to renew in our 
century the formalism of an earlier age. Not wholly with 
out tenderness can we view this movement, judging it to be 
in a great measure the result of a fervent longing to retain 
a grasp of religion amid the gathering clouds of doubt a 
grasp unhappily fastened, not on its realities, but on its 
mere vesture and dress. But it is none the less a sad, a 
deplorable spectacle. The original idea of such sacrifice of 
formal devotion as we are speaking of, has been compared to 


a child s delight in bringing home to his mother the weeds 
and pebbles with which he has been himself delighted in 
his daily walk. The mother accepts them lovingly as 
tokens of her child s love ; and the child brings them again 
and again and soon makes a habit, well nigh sacred, of 
giving them to her continually. At last it dawns on his 
mind that she cannot possibly really care for them; that 
they are of no value to her ; and that she has only accepted 
them because she has understood that he meant them as 
offerings of affection. "What now is he to do ? Is he to go 
on giving his mother the weeds and pebbles still ? He has 
nothing else to give, and his heart yearns to give something, 
and the habit has become so fixed that there seems a want 
of filial affection in discontinuing it. Yery probably, then, 
he maintains the practice for a time ; but it is obvious that 
the original purpose is lost, the beauty of the action gone. 
If he persist long in keeping up the dry and now unmean 
ing custom, a mechanical spirit inevitably creeps over his 
performance of it, and all his relations with his parent 
become falsified and distorted. At last, one day she says 
to him, "Bring no more vain oblations. My son, give me 
thine heart. Show thy love to me, not in gifts which I heed 
not, but in serving my other children, thy brothers." If he 
hears this warning and still persists in presenting his paltry 
childish offerings, what hope is there for him ? How is he 
ever to enter into true relations with his mother ? 

2. The second grave objection to the use of Confession, 
except in cases of extraordinary guilt, is that it must inevi 
tably tend to enervate the moral constitution. To acquire the 
habit of running to a priest whenever we feel penitent, or 
desire to strengthen our good resolutions, or, in fact, are pass 
ing through any of the deeper phases of the inner life when 
God s spirit is striving with ours, can surely have no other 


result than to make us weaker and less able to walk alone 
with God every year of our lives. The conscience which 
Js itself brought to another bar, is no longer the supreme 
Judge within us. The little seed of good which is fruc 
tifying in the depth of our hearts, may only too probably 
be killed by exposure. The more able and powerful may 
be our Confessor, the more certain is it that he must shortly 
assume in our minds a place of authority which will leave us 
small remnant of self-reliance in matters wherein our judg 
ment may differ from his as to the rectitude of an action ; 
and if we reach the point of blindly accepting his ipse dixit 
in cases of duty, against our own conscience, where are we, 
but in the net of the Jesuit s " obedience " ? Of course, as 
in every other history of the struggle between Authority 
and Freedom, there are endless fine things to be said of 
the invaluable use of authority in keeping foolish and igno 
rant people straight, and of the terrible consequences of 
freedom to anybody short of a sage and a saint. Still, if 
we have read aright the great purpose for which God has 
made us, and are not mistaken in supposing that He sees 
it best to permit all the evil and misery which arise from 
moral freedom, sooner than leave us without it, we may 
reasonably demur to the stride which priests would take 
in curtailing that liberty, were we to allow them to be 
once more the guardians of the consciences of the nations. 
Even if the ethics taught by any " Catholic " priesthood 
were uniformly pure and high, if vile casuistry were a 
thing unknown in their books, if Catholic nations and 
individuals trained by the Confessional obviously held the 
clearest ideas of truth and uprightness, if ecclesiastical 
behaviour never betrayed signs of shuffling or crooked- 
mindedness, even if all these things were so, we should 
still gravely object to permitting the Anglican clergy, or 
any other order of clergy in the world, to assume the sway 


over men s consciences obtained by the practice of Auricular 
Confession. As things actually are, it would seem to us 
one of the most grievous dangers to public morality to 
entrust them with such power for a generation, even though 
we fully appreciate the lofty morality of their present in 

In this, as in every other of the High-Church restorations 
of Romish practices, we find ourselves drawn into discuss 
ing as a novelty that which in truth has been an experi 
ment tried on an enormous scale for many centuries, and of 
which there is no real need to speak save by rehearsing the 
obvious results. Which are the people of Europe whose 
characters are most straightforward and manly, who care 
most for public justice, and whose word is most gene 
rally accepted by friends and foes as trustworthy? Is 
it the nations who have enjoyed all the supposed moral 
benefits of Auricular Confession from the Dark Ages till 
to-day, the Spaniards, the Greeks, the Neapolitans, the 
Irish? Or does it chance that even in those Catholic 
countries an English or American heretic, the descendant 
of a dozen generations of unconfessing heretics, is believed 
on his word and trusted more readily than a native ? How 
is it that every foreigner points with envy and admiration 
to the public spirit and love of justice which, as M. Taine 
says, " support England on a million columns " ? How 
is it that we are not learning public and private virtue 
from the priest-led nations of Europe, if the Confessional 
be the true school of goodness ? How is it that the ages 
when it reigned supreme and unquestioned, were worse 
ages than any the world has since beheld? How is it 
that we are growing a little more humane, a little more 
truthful, a little more sober, as the generations bear us 
further from the last days even of Protestant Confession; 
while the comparison of English domestic morality with 


that of Southern Europe, and of English charities with 
those of any other land, show that even as regards the 
virtues which the Confessional is supposed expressly to 
guard and to inculcate, we are no whit the worse for its 

disuse ? 1 

3. Lastly, we have to consider among the objections to 
the revival of the practice of Confession, the desecrating 
influence on the spiritual life involved in the exposure of 
the recesses of the soul. The manual already quoted 2 says 
that penitents have two objections to Confession. One is, 
that they are afraid the clergyman will betray their secrets 
an idle fear. The other is, that they are ashamed a 
sentiment which ought to be conquered, because " sin not 
forgiven now will be proclaimed to our endless shame here 
after, before men and devils, holy angels and God Himself." 
Our inquiry is whether this latter sentiment be wholly a 
bad one, which a man will be permanently the better for 
disregarding and trampling on ? This is a very important 
point in the whole subject we are considering; and to do 
it justice we must pause an instant to define what is the 
nature of the shame in question. 

There is, first, the kind of shame which consists in the 
pain of exposure, the sense that we are fallen in the esteem 
of the person who learns our guilt, and perhaps have be 
come the object of his contempt. To those in whom the sen 
timent which phrenologists style Love of Approbation is 
strongly developed, shame of this sort is torture; and to 

1 In connexion with this subject it may be remarked, that the Fathers of the 
Reformation were all brought up on the Catholic system and never got beyond 
Catholic ethics. If some of their actions lend a shade of colour to Dr. 
Littledalc s application to them of his term of " scoundrel martyrs," he may 
look to " the hole of the pit whence they were digged," or rather whence they 
partially lifted themselves heavenward, for their exculpation. 

2 Pardon through tbe Precious Blood. 


all, save the most hardened, it is probably one of the bitter 
est drops in the cup of life. Now it is clear that it is this 
common kind of shame which the advocates of Confession 
have in their mind as the chief obstacle to the practice, 
because they constantly insist that the sinner had better 
make up his mind to compound for the shame of telling his 
sin to his priest, because "sin not forgiven now will be 
proclaimed to our endless shame hereafter, before men and 
devils, holy angels and God Himself." 1 (How anything is 
to be proclaimed before Gfod hereafter, which, by implication, 
must be concealed from Him now, we cannot stop to con 
sider.) Thus Confession is represented rather in the light 
of a security for secresy, than, as some liberal writers 
have more charitably supposed it, an outburst of honesty. 
It is recommended as a wise plan for confining to the 
ear of a single clergyman secrets which, if not so judi 
ciously guarded, will infallibly be published hereafter to 
the sound of the Last Trumpet. Some shame and ex 
posure the sinner is assured he must needs endure. Who 
would not seize the opportunity of limiting the disgrace to 
a single auditor, rather than incur the terrible penalty of 
being pilloried before the assembled universe which of 
course will have nothing better to do than to stand aghast 
and listen to the long catalogue of our misdemeanours? 

Now, putting aside this piece of ecclesiastical bribery, let 
us hold to the point of the moral advantage or disadvan 
tage of braving the shame of exposure so far as to confess 
our sins to a priest. Is the process likely to be ethically 
beneficial or the reverse ? It would seem that the pain in 
question is of very varied influence on the characters of 
those who endure it. To estimate its results aright, we 
must distinguish carefully between the effects of being ex 
posed involuntarily and publicly, and to all our little world 
1 Pardon through the Precious Blood, p. 15. 


at once ; or of being exposed voluntarily only to one person, 
and under peculiar conditions of penitence pleading on our 
behalf for a restoration of esteem. And, again, we must 
distinguish between the exposure of great sins, proving our 
whole life to have been a hollow pretence, or that of such 
ordinary weaknesses as do not entirely forfeit our claim to 
respect. Public involuntary exposure of great sins com 
monly proves too overwhelming an agony to leave the soul 
any sufficient balance of self-respect or hope enabling it 
even to retain such virtues as were previously preserved. 
The miserable swindler, or fallen woman, under such dis 
grace, sinks commonly in despair, if not in drunkenness, 
into complete moral collapse. Only in exceptional cases 
does public involuntary exposure of either vice or crime, 
clearing away all fogs of self-deception, leave behind it 
strength of character and religious or conscientious feeling 
sufficient to enable the fallen person to start afresh from 
new ground, and become virtuous in a truer sense than 
ever. As all who have studied the characters of children, 
or of persons convicted of crime, are well aware, this shame 
of exposure is a punishment to be used with extremest cau 
tion; very useful as a threat, but nearly always injurious 
as an actual infliction* It is doubtless most unwholesome 
for any one to go on bearing an entirely false character with 
those around him, and to be placed upon a pedestal when 
he deserves to be on a gibbet ; or to be allowed to weave 
a romance of self- exculpation and glorification when he 
actually merits nothing but blame and compassion. 1 Even 
the sudden downfall of absolute disgrace may be less dan 
gerous than this. But, as a rule, public exposure of guilt 
is a terrible and most perilous trial, to which they who best 

1 This is said to be peculiarly the case with inmates of Penitentiaries, who 
invariably enter them with a rigmarole of a history taken out of a penny 
novelist, and with whom no real reformation ever begins till they admit this 
pseudo -biography to be a lie, and tell the plain facts of their lives. 


understand human nature are most reluctant to expose any 
fellow-creature whose reclamation is possible by other means. 

Does it follow that private voluntary exposure a very 
much milder process, no doubt is a particularly healthful 
one ? The pang of shame once passed, is passed for ever. 
No one can ever feel it again in its sharpness. Is it good 
to have it behind us in our experience, as a thing we have 
gone through and know the worst of ; or to have it always 
before us as a formless horror of warning ? I may be 
wrong in my conclusion, but it seems to me that the pain 
we should feel the first time we practised Auricular Con 
fession would leave us harder and more shameless ever 
after. It might seem to us right to endure it. I can readily 
imagine a stern sense of self-revenge and thirst for expia 
tion making a man force his lips to utter his own condemna 
tion, as Cranmer held his guilty hand in the fire. But it 
does not follow that the penance, even if undertaken in the 
purest spirit of contrition, would leave us any the better for 
practising it. 

This matter, however, is one on which I do not wish to 
insist. The important point seems to be that of which the 
advocates of Confession take no notice, namely, that there 
is another kind of shame beside the shame of exposure 
There is a shame which is " a glory and grace," and which 
has nothing to do with the " What will he think of me ? " 
which is all they ever seem to contemplate. It cannot 
be a dream that there is a spiritual, no less than a physical, 
modesty implanted in all natures save the very lowest ; 
and if there be such a sentiment, the mode by which 
it can most grossly be outraged is assuredly by the reve 
lation to a human being of that which passes at the very 
meeting-place between the repentant soul and God. The 
shame of such violation of all the sanctities of the spiritual 
temple as is included in the idea of a " General Confession," 


or "making a clean breast" to a priest, seems (to one to 
whom the idea has not been familiarized) something actually 
portentous ; something which must leave the soul which has 
thus exposed itself no shelter evermore even in the deepest 
recesses of the spiritual world. To have our whole past 
laid bare, if only in the crude, imperfect way in which 
words can describe it ; to talk to a man of all that is most 
awful, most agonizing, and yet (if we have repented and 
been restored) most inexpressibly tender and sacred in our 
memories; to uncover every grave of dead sins in our "God s 
Acre," and exhume the contents for the autopsy of an 
ecclesiastical coroner, all this is so purely shocking to 
the unsophisticated sense, that we feel as if, before it could 
be done, the soul must be drugged with false excitements. 
Of course we shall be told that it is to no ordinary human 
friend that auricular confession is made, but to a priest who 
stands as the representative of God, and holds the keys of 
remission from Him. Of the monstrous nature of the last 
pretension I shall not now speak ; but of the fact that it is 
our priest, and not our brother, mother, friend, to whom we 
are called to make confession, is, I insist, an aggravation 
of the evil complained of, not a mitigation of it. Love, 
deep and perfect, the union of two souls filled with the 
same love to God, and wont to approach Him together, may 
indeed justify, because it sanctifies, confidences and self- 
revelations which would be hateful if made to one less near 
or dear. Though even in the tenderest friendship it is 
certain that many reservations must be made, yet a great 
deal which no one else may know, may, without any 
violation of what I have named spiritual modesty, be con 
fided to the one who is " soul of our soul," the nearest to us 
of created beings, though yet far less near than our God. 1 

1 It is remarkable that the Mosaic law of Confession says nothing about a 
priest, but makes the penitent confess to his companion. 


But the relation of penitent and confessor, as understood 
by Christian churches, has nothing whatever to do with 
this union of hearts. There is nothing reciprocal in it, nor 
does the penitent suppose the priest has any interest in 
him beyond one of pure benevolence. For obvious reasons, 
it becomes especially dangerous and shocking for any such 
natural human affections to subsist where the sexes of the 
two are opposite. The confessor is not a friend, and has 
none of a friend s sacred rights. But he claims, on the 
other hand, to be just that very thing which it is most 
mischievous to employ, namely, a human " go-between," 
standing in the place of God to us, and therefore hindering 
us from accomplishing that one act wherein lies salvation, 
namely, looking straight up to God, and enduring as best 
we may the awful Light of Light shining full on our dark 
ness. The intervention of a priest in such a moment must 
be tantamount, I conceive, to the nullification of half the 
purifying power of repentance. And, further, it must es 
tablish in our minds a tribunal which is not that of the 
Holy Spirit within us, a Pardoner who is not our God. 
To get behind and beyond this priestly interloper, and once 
more come directly to the Father, must ever after be ten 
fold more difficult. In fact, I seriously question whether 
any man long accustomed to auricular confession can 
really so break the law of association of ideas as to thrust 
aside in hours of penitence the thought of his confessor, 
and think only simply of God against whom he has sinned, 
and to whom he desires once more to bring his sin-stained 

We have now seen reason to doubt that the endurance 
of the lower form of shame felt by a penitent in con 
fession would be of moral advantage ; and we have seen 
(I apprehend) excellent reason for believing that the viola 
tion of sacred feelings which would form the higher shame, 



would prove spiritually injurious in an almost indefinite 

But it must not be forgotten that there are unhappily 
many natures to whom these arguments do not apply, for 
the simple reason that, by an odious inversion of healthy 
sentiment, they find self-exposure not a pain but a pleasure. 
Nobody who knows much of the world will be liable to fall 
into the error of supposing that every one who attends the 
Confessional does serious violence to himself, or herself, or 
makes any genuine sacrifice, by such an act. On the con 
trary, just as fashionable physicians are wearied by the 
needless pathological disclosures of egotistic patients, so, in 
all Catholic countries, fashionable confessors have complained 
of the fatal facility with which their penitents talk of the 
state of their souls, and detail their spiritual symptoms 
with as much obvious gratification as others find in de 
scribing those of their bodies. On aime mieux dire du mal 
de soi-meme que de nen point parler, says La Rochefoucauld, 
and the Confessional is often the best evidence of the truth 
of the remark. Is it needful to observe that to such sickly 
hysterical natures, whose souls possess no sanctuary which 
they are not willing at any moment to violate, there cannot 
be a worse peril than the presentation, in guise of a self- 
denying duty, of a practice which is really to them one of 
vicious self-indulgence ? 

Does any reader ask : Are we, then, never to be 
absolutely true to any one, never to stand wholly revealed 
to one single fellow- creature ? Goethe says most falsely 
as I take it that we all have that concealed in our 
hearts which if revealed would make us an object of 
abhorrence to those who love us. Is this nightmare to 
haunt us for ever, and are we never to cast it off and feel 
we are free and honest, and may look the world in the 
face ? 


I believe that some feelings like these are at the bottom 
of a good deal of the favour which the suggestion of a 
revival of Confession has met with in England, and they 
have a right, undoubtedly, to be weighed in our estimate of 
its benefits and ill results. If I am not mistaken, the sen 
timent in question is essentially one belonging to what may 
be termed the second period of youth. We are then still 
in the age of fervent enthusiasms and of very partial self- 
knowledge. "We have violated our early vows of heroic 
virtue, and are sore with the bruises of our falls. At such 
an age we naturally feel an intense desire to come into 
closest communion with the souls we love, and to be utterly 
and truly known to them, never cheating them of affection 
which we feel we do not deserve. We are tempted to pour 
out all the accusations against ourselves which even exag 
gerated self-reproach can dictate. But in later life and with 
calmer judgment, we recognize that such "auricular confes 
sions " of love and friendship are in no way needful to place 
even the tenderest relationships on a footing of absolute can 
dour and veracity. Nay, we learn to know that it is so im 
possible to see ourselves altogether truthfully (our own breath 
obscuring the mirror in which we attempt to gaze), and 
still more impossible to convey to another mind by spoken 
words what we truly are, that it is, in reality, little or no 
gain to genuine mutual understanding to interchange such 
confidences. If we do not add the history of our virtues^ 
to those of our faults ; describe where we conquered as well 
as where we fell ; how we struggled, no less than when we 
yielded to temptation ; in a word, paint all the lights as 
well as all the shadows of our lives, we are in fact giving 
our friend a picture of ourselves as false in its own way 
as mere self-laudation would be in another. What sin 
cerity really demands in friendship is, that there should 
be nothing in our outward conduct or inward desires or 



intentions noiv, which, if our friend should see and under 
stand, would alter his opinion of us for the worse. He 
has a right to unlock our hearts, and see all that is there. 
God alone has right of entrance into the deep chambers 
of memory. 

Thus, then, I apprehend, the thirst for self- revelation, 
which may lead some young or weak spirits to the Confes 
sional, is one always to be outgrown with advancing wisdom. 
Still more certainly must it, I apprehend, be outgrown by 
advancing spiritual life, till a point be reached wherein 
Divine communion, ever enjoyed in the depths of the soul, 
would render the suggestion of such an exposure hateful as 
that of any other sacrilege. 

To sum up the argument of the present paper. The ad 
vantages to be derived from the practice of Confession, the 
benefits of self-knowledge, moral instruction and priestly 
guardianship, cannot be weighed against the evils it in 
volves, the materializing of penitence, the enervation of 
the moral nature, and the desecration of the spiritual life. 
A method of combating sin which involves evils of such 
magnitude, becomes itself an evil. Even supposing that 
every tale of grossness and misuse be nothing but malig 
nant falsehood, enough, and more than enough, remains in 
the inherent mischief of the practice of Confession to urge 
every friend of morality and religion to oppose it to the 
utmost of his power. 

"What is the true Confession ? The life which shall be 
open and honest as the day, and yet whose inner springs 
shall rise pure from hidden depths where no defilement 
may reach them ? It is not very hard to picture what such 
a life might be. Men go about to urge us to confess our sins 
alone, and to confess them to a single priest, while they 
are content that we keep closest silence to our nearest and 


dearest concerning much that we are, and more that we think. 
Let them extend their notions of honesty a little further. 1 
Let them bid us speak out what we think, and live out what 
we speak ; seem what we are, and be what we seem. Let 
them exhort us to have no secrets, save of sins long since 
repented and passed into God s keeping ; and of generous 
deeds, in regard to which the left hand may not know what 
the right has done. Let them bid us strive for that noble 
state wherein we should feel assured that nothing could ever 
be discovered concerning us, in word, deed or thought, 
which would not make those who love us already, love 
us still more. And then let them add one counsel more 
concerning a part of life which in old times men heeded 
most of all should be honest, but which in these days is 
wrapped by thousands of us in a haze of obscurity, if not 
of deception. Let them bid us confess before friends and 
foes, everywhere, and at all times when the avowal may be 
called for, what we in our inmost hearts believe concerning 
God and duty and immortality; so that neither the fear 
of forfeiting the worldly advantages of orthodoxy on one 
side, or that of meeting the sneer of scepticism on the other, 
shall drive us one step out of the straight path of absolute 

In a recent sermon, Mr. Martineau spoke of keeping 
secrets " not from God, but with Him ; " and advised his 
.hearers to make it a rule " not to speak of everything which 
passes between the soul and God ; not to betray every burden 

1 The self-told story of the lady (The World and the Church, p. 225) who 
went secretly from her father s house to Confession to Mr. Goodwin in a 
London church, and kept all her doings a mystery till after some interviews, 
is a very good sample of the way in which Auricular Confession makes a 
man or woman more honest. To tell our past sins to a stranger who has no 
natural right to know anything ahout us, while we hide our whole present 
course of action and thinking from the parents, hrothers and sisters whose 
love and confidence we continue to accept, this forsooth is to he specially 
pious and truthful ! 


He lays upon us, but to reserve somewhat which shall be His 
and ours alone." Between such a lesson as this and that of 
the Anglican Manuals of Confession which we have now re 
viewed, there seems to lie the whole width of the moral and 
spiritual horizon. 



[The following brief Essay, written while this book has been in the press, is 
here reprinted as supplementing the expression of the writer s views on 
the Development of Morals in Essay I.] 

HISTORIES of the progress of the Intellect and of Religious 
Ideas have occupied the attention of scholars for a consider 
able time. It may be questioned whether we should not now 
direct our studies rather to the history of the Religious 
Sentiment, and to the development through the ages, not of 
human thoughts about Grod, but of human feelings towards 
Him. The furthest insight we are able to obtain into our 
own nature, seems to show that the share which ideas exer 
cise in the production -of feelings is superficial compared 
to the profound influence of feelings in the formation of 
opinions; and that the transmission of ideas by means of 
oral or written language, is, in moral and religious matters, 
of the smallest possible value, unless, by some extraneous 
means, the feelings may be brought up to the level whereto 
the ideas belong. Only in our day have the materials for 
anything like a sketch of the history of the Religious Senti 
ment been collected ; and much yet remains obscure ; but the 
outline of such a progress begins to be apparent. The Moral 

1 Reprinted from The Manchester Friend, January 15th, 1872. 


Sense, out of which the higher part of religious feeling (all 
which distinguishes human piety from a dog s loyalty) must 
necessarily grow, is itself now recognized as a slowly de 
veloped thing, hardly perceptible in the savage, and only 
through long millenniums acquiring the shape in which we 
find it within the historic era. The barbaric " ages before 
morality," of which Mr. Jowett long ago spoke, have, as 
Mr. Bagehot remarks, 1 been rendered clear to us by the re 
searches of Sir John Lubbock and Mr. Tylor into the state 
of savages at the present day ; and, starting from this 
earliest period, we may now trace the gradual development 
together of the Moral Sense and Social Affections; and of 
the Religious Sentiment which grows with their growth and 
strengthens with their strength. Without in any way in 
dorsing Mr. Darwin s hypothesis, that the Moral Sense is 
nothing more than the instincts of a social animal developed 
under the conditions of human life, we may gladly admit 
that, even as the immortal part in us seems to be slowly 
built up within the scaffolding of our animal part, from the 
first germ of being, through infant and childish life up to 
manhood, so the Moral Sense, which is the sense of the soul, 
is developed slowly likewise, not only in the individual, but 
also in the race, during the millenniums through which it 
has emerged from the brutal into the human. 

1. At the earliest stage of religion, the savage had a 
vague conception of invisible Powers lurking behind the 
forces of nature, in sun and moon, star and thundercloud, 
in the mysterious beasts and serpents, in trees and stones. 
In other words, at this stage of Fetichism he possessed the 
Sentiments of awe, fear, and wonder, but nothing higher. 
His gods could have no moral attributes, because his own 
moral nature was as yet too immature and cloudy to project 
any image of such qualities as Justice or Truth. He recog- 
1 Fortnightly Review, December, 1871. 


nized neither an Orrauzd nor an Ahrimanes, but only unseen 
Wills as wayward and passion-led as his own. 1 To take a 
savage at this stage and endeavour to convey to him a true 
conception of the goodness of God, is labour thrown away. 
" Good," as one such barbarian said to a French missionary, 
"is when I take my enemy s wives. Evil is when he takes 
mine." The man who has no higher sense of goodness than 
this, is as incapable of feeling Divine goodness, as a table or 
a door is incapable of feeling the benevolence of its owner. 
According to the admirable simile used by a writer on Dar 
winism in Macmillan s Magazine, he is as little conscious of 
such character in God as a jelly-fish is of the presence of a 
man, whom a bird or a mouse will perceive and fear ; and 
whom a dog will so far understand as to be able to love. 
Only through a long upward course, in which intellectual 
instruction will by no means perform the chief part, can the 
savage be brought to the level whereon he can have any 
comprehension of goodness, properly so called. 

2. In the second stage, the gods are recognized to be 
Just, that is, to exercise a certain amount of judicial control 
over human affairs, precisely corresponding to the point 
which men s conception of justice has attained. This is the 
period at which Hesiod warns rapacious kings to fear Zeus, 
whose all-beholding eye witnesses their tyranny. But at 
the same epoch this justice-executing Zeus is unhesitatingly 
credited with horrible personal vices and base deceptions. 
Even long ages afterwards, when Pindar exhorts his hearers 

Then, man with holy fear, 
Touch the character of gods : 
Of their sacred nature say 
Nought irreverent, nought profane. 

he immediately proceeds to glorify in glowing verse one of 
the worst of the immoralities of Olympos. It is quite obvious 

1 See ante, p. 171. 


that it never so much as crossed the poet s mind that it was 
"profane" to attribute to Zeus the grossest licentiousness. 
Such elevation as had taken place in the Moral Sense of the 
nation was as yet unreflected in the character attributed to 
the gods ; and indeed, in this matter of the virtue of chastity, 
was probably hardly perceptible at all. It is this second 
stage of human religion to which poets have always looked 
back as the Golden Age 

Quando al placer nemica 
Non era la virtti ; 

when there was no antithesis between pleasure and virtue, 
for the simple reason that all the virtue then apprehended 
concerned the externals of justice between man and man, 
and never touched the inner laws of personal purity, veracity, 
and sobriety. It is the ideal age of youth which St. Paul 
describes himself as having passed through : " For I was 
alive without the law once; but, when the commandment 
came, sin revived, and I died." 

3. The third stage of religion is attained when the Moral 
Sense and the Affections have both received considerable de 
velopment. Beyond the earlier vague and imperfect sense of 
Justice, the moral sense is now so far extended in the direc 
tions of Fidelity and Purity, that the conception of Divine 
Holiness begins to loom on the mental horizon, and the at 
tribution to God of perfidy or licentiousness ceases to be en 
durable. The Affections, likewise, have grown in the direc 
tion of friendship, favouritism, and patriotism, so far, that 
the notion of God entertaining friendship for particular men, 
having favourites as a king might have, and loving the par 
ticular tribe, country, or town of the worshipper, begins to 
be a familiar part of the ideal of His character. The limita 
tions in both cases are very obvious. The Holiness of God 
is not felt to exclude the possibility of His tempting His 


creatures to sin, or inspiring immoral actions, even though 
His own nature is supposed to be pure. And, as the 
Affections of men, at this stage, are but slightly influenced 
by the moral qualities of the persons to whom they are 
directed, so Jehovah may " love Jacob and hate Esau," 
irrespective of the baseness of the one, and of the honest 
simplicity of the other. Further, as favouritism has always 
its counterpart in equally unreasonable dislikes, so the 
peculiar favour of God shown to certain men or tribes, 
always implies Divine hatred towards their neighbours and 

This, then, the stage of belief in a partially holy, and par 
tially loving God, is that at which we find nearly all the more 
religious nations of antiquity when we are first introduced to 
them ; and it is, alas ! the stage beyond which the civilized 
world has hardly advanced a step to this day. The Hebrews 
had manifestly attained to it in the age in which the Penta 
teuch was written, when God was in a measure recognized as 
holy, and yet was supposed to have inspired or rewarded 
many evil actions ; and when He was believed to love 
"Abraham and his seed," and to hate the Egyptians and 
Canaanites. Only the later Isaiah, of all the Old Testa 
ment writers, soared entirely above this level, and felt that 
Jehovah loved Edom and Moab as well as Israel, and would 
reconcile all nations at last. In India, the hymns of the 
Big-veda prove that in the very earliest epoch of recorded 
religious history, the sense of Divine holiness was strong 
enough to prompt confession of sin, and entreaties for 
pardon ; while the belief in the partiality of the Deity for 
the Aryans, and his hatred for the Dasyus (their dark-skinned 
enemies), may be traced as clearly in the maledictory Psalms 
attributed to the Eishi Viswamitra as in those of the Bible 
attributed to David. The Zoroastrians enjoyed, from the 
first, exceedingly high conceptions of the sanctity and benefi- 


cence of Ahura-mazda ; but even He was invoked as the 
enemy of their enemies, albeit, with the blessed underlying 
faith that in the final day He would pardon Ahriman himself, 
and restore to His love all the souls in the universe. Practi 
cally, as we have said, the civilized world remains at this 
stage to the present hour. / The Christian, Jewish, and 
Moslem God, loves the Elect, the Chosen Race, the Faithful, 
and hates other men; condemning (according to the orthodox 
Christian creed) a vast number of them to eternal banish 
ment from His presence, in darkness and torture.J He is 
adored as Holy, and, in a measure, men understand real holi 
ness when they apply the word to Him, but they by no 
means feel the incongruity from which a thoroughly trained 
moral sense would revolt, in the attribution to this holy God 
of many acts recorded in their sacred writings ; or of such a 
system of government as is unfolded in the plan of Atonement 
as commonly understood. The reason why they do not feel 
these monstrous derogations from the Divine perfections is 
obvious. It is because their own Sentiments of love and 
mercy, truth and justice, are as yet so imperfectly developed 
that even when accustomed to apply the terms expressive of 
goodness to God, they simply do not know what they involve. 
When their hearts are really full of love (as we see in the 
case of many living saints), their creeds hardly hamper them 
at all, and their intellectual errors hang so loosely as to be 
practically harmless. On the other hand, the lessons of 
Christ, repeated parrot- wise for sixty generations, have failed 
to bring men, who are not loving, to understand anything of 
the Divine goodness more than in that most imperfect and 
partial way which we have marked as the third stage of the 
religious sentiment. 

4. Lastly, we may dimly foresee the fourth and final stage 
of religion, when the sense of what constitutes Holiness will 
be too lofty to permit of attribution to God of many of the 


acts and modes of government which at present are ascribed 
to Him ; and when men will have gained so much of the 
Divine power of loving and pitying the erring and the un 
lovely, that they will realize at last, the meaning of calling 
God the Father of All. No doubt Christ, when he uttered 
those marvellous sayings about the beatitude of loving our 
enemies, blessing those who curse us, and praying for those 
who despitefully use us and persecute us, had attained this 
exalted stage. He felt the Divine Fatherhood, as none before 
him, that we know of, had felt it, because he had in his own 
heart a power of pitying the sinful, and pardoning the offend 
ing, such as few, if any, had felt before. Even he, however, 
if we may trust the records, did not see the hideous anomaly 
involved in his own words, when he represented that same 
Divine Father as not pardoning all those who "despitefully 
used " .Him, but casting them into "outer darkness " for ever. 
But it remains clear that in this direction must surely lie the 
path of progress in moral feeling which is to lead us at last 
to the joy of unbroken sympathy with God. Hitherto, 
while individual Christians have repeatedly performed heroic 
acts of forgiveness and kindness to their enemies, and while 
thousands have devoted their lives to the restoration of the 
vicious and the criminal, there has been yet hardly an 
approach to a general sentiment of love for the unlovely ; or 
even a working theory of what that love should be, beyond 
the Schoolmen s barren distinction, between Love of Benevo 
lence and Love of Complacency. Too many of us, instead 
of feeling the intense sense of the misery and hatefulness of 
sin out of which true pity for the sinner can alone arise, are 
disposed to make light of the evil with mere easy good 
nature, and so to be really further from the higher charity 
than those who harshly condemn and righteously abhor it. 
And, for our personal enemies, the men and women in many 
ways obnoxious to us, it yet remains almost an insoluble 


problem how we ought to act towards them. "We lack the 
unselfish, magnanimous, deep-sighted love, for the struggling 
human spirit beneath its load of passion, meanness, vul 
garity, and stupidity, which would inspire us with the right 
conduct. But only when we have attained this holy love, can 
our own spiritual progress flow on calmly and surely, and our 
communion with God cease to be fitful and often interrupted. 
Only when we ourselves love the unlovely as well as the 
lovely, shall we attain the goal of the religious life, and "be 
perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, who maketh his 
sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on 
the just and on the unjust." The first stage of religion, 
when nothing but Power was felt ; the second, when men 
believed God to be Just, but knew not that He was Holy ; the 
third, when they felt Him to be Holy, but conceived of Him 
still as Partial, will all have been left far behind. "We shall 
then feel and know that He is more than all this that He 
is All-loving. 

Well says Charles Yoysey : " The greatest reward which 
a generous, forgiving, loving life, can ever bring, must 
be to enable us to feel the Goodness of God/ There 
is no use deceiving ourselves with the idea that we can 
learn His goodness, like an answer in a catechism, by 
the intellect alone. All that the intellect can help in 
the matter is but little, and that little chiefly of the 
negative sort. The sense must grow with our own moral 
growth. We must scale height after height before we see 
the heaven-high summit far off in the cloudless blue. Of 
course, at each step we are aided and cheered onward and 
upward by the view already attained. Once a man has 
begun to realize that God is all which his heart craves to love 
and adore, he has gained a level from which he can hardly 
altogether fall away again. All the disappointed affections 
of life are calmed, all its terrors of loneliness subdued, all its 


trials made endurable, by that deep rest of the soul. But 
there are further and further visions attainable of what His 
Goodness is, as we grow more good; and of what God s 
Love may be for us and for all men, as we ourselves love 
more divinely. 




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