Courtesy of Walter B. Martin, Jr.

Sermon & Lecture Index

Providence as a Doctrine of Science
A Half-Hour with Robert Elsmere
A Defence of the "Deliverance" on Evolution

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From The Presbyterian Quarterly
By Rev. Geo. D. Armstrong, D. D.

I. Huxley's Picture of the World.

"The conception of the constancy of nature," writes Professor Huxley, "has become the dominant idea of modern thought. To persons familiar with the facts on which this conception is based, and competent to estimate their significance, it has ceased to be conceivable that chance should have any place in the universe, or that events should depend upon any but the natural sequence of cause and effect. We have come to look upon the present as the child of the past and as the parent of the future; and as we have excluded chance from a place in the universe, so we ignore, even as a possibility, the notion of any interference with the order of nature. Whatever may be man's speculative doctrine, it is quite certain that every intelligent person guides his life and risks his fortune upon the belief that the order of nature is constant, and that the chain of natural causation is never broken."—New York Lectures on Evolution, Lect. I.

"The history of every science is but the history of the elimination of the notion of creative or other interference with the natural order of the phenomena which are the subject-matter of that science. When astronomy was young, the morning stars sang together for joy, and all the planets were guided in their courses by celestial hands. Now, the harmony of the stars has resolved itself into gravitation according to the inverse squares of the distances, and the orbits of the planets are deducible from the laws of forces which allow a schoolboy's stone to break a window. The lightning was the angel of the Lord, but it has pleased Providence in these modern times that science should make it the humble messenger of man; and we know that every flash which shimmers above the horizon on a summer evening is determined by ascertainable conditions, and that its direction and brightness might, if one's knowledge of these were greater, have been calculated. Plague, pestilence, and famine are admitted by all but fools to be [207] the natural result of causes, for the most part fully within human control; and not the unavoidable tortures inflicted by wrathful Omnipotence upon his helpless handiwork."

"Harmonious order governing eternally continuous progress, the web and woof of matter and force intertwining by slow degrees, without a broken thread, that veil which lies between us and the infinite, that universe which alone we know and can know, such is the picture which science draws of the world; and in proportion as any part of that picture is in unison with the rest, so may we feel sure that it is rightly painted."—Lay Sermons, pp. 282, 283.

Such is the picture which Professor Huxley, and the class of scientists to which he belongs, would have us accept as a true picture of the world in which we live, and of which we form a part. Our world, according to this representation, is but a vast machine working out results—history, in the wide sense of that term—just as some great power-loom weaves out a piece of figured damask according to the pattern to which it has been set. The loom, once started at its appointed task, works on without any possible interference, or even supervision, on the part of him who originally built it, and set it in motion.


1. For convenient use in the business of life man has embodied the knowledge of the earth's surface acquired by direct observation in what we style maps, and these maps form a most important part of our treatises on geography, i. e., the picture of the earth. Look at one of these maps now, and you will find laid down there continents and oceans, islands and lakes, mountain ranges and rivers, all of which we may naturally suppose to owe their present existence and form to the operation of what Huxley calls "natural agencies," by which he means mechanical forces, i. e., forces acting without intelligence or will. But in addition to all these, our maps are filled with marks of the location of cities, and canals, and railroads; and our geographies are filled with particular descriptions of them, as if this knowledge was of even greater practical importance than that of continents and islands and mountains. [208] Cities, and canals, and railroads do not owe their existence to mere mechanical agencies. They are confessedly the work of man. His intelligence has located them, and his will, as an efficient cause, has determined their construction.

And this condition of things in our world is not a new condition, which has begun to exist in our day. As far back as history throws any light upon the subject, our world has had its cities, canals, and roads, if not railroads, all acknowledged to be the work of man. In every part of the world which man has inhabited in the past, we find remains of his workmanship in some form or other; from the stately ruins of pyramids and temples in Egypt, to the chipped knives and arrow-heads of the lands in which savage man has had his home. Now, in "the picture which science draws of our world," according to Professor Huxley, cities, and canals, and railroads are entirely left out, and so the picture is incomplete, as even the schoolboy will see.

2. Turn now from our examination of maps to a study of the world, as it everywhere surrounds us and presents itself to the eye. Among the phenomena which challenge our attention, alongside of ocean billows raised by the wind, and streams of molten lava pouring forth from volcanic mountains, and the flow and fall of waters in rivers and waterfalls, are ships making their way over the ocean, often in the very "teeth of the wind," and fires "cribbed and confined" in furnaces, in which man is extracting useful metals from their ores in spite of the chemical affinity which binds the elements of the ore together; and railroad engines moving up the very mountain side in opposition to gravity. In all these, and in a thousand similar ways, man is doing a work in the world in which he appears as an efficient cause in making the world what it is to-day.

"The natural sequence of cause and effect," in the sense in which Prof. Huxley uses that phrase, never built the city of London, or dug the Suez Canal, or constructed the Pacific Railroad; nor does it sail our steamships in their voyages across the ocean, or manage our iron furnaces, or run our railroad engines. If history, in the wide sense of that term, be a piece of figured damask woven in nature's loom, there are figures there to which the [209] loom was not originally set, but which have unquestionably been introduced by the free will-power of man.

Professor Huxley's picture of our world is fatally defective, in that the phenomena resulting from the operation of the willpower of man are entirely left out. His map is worthless to the active man of business, because it makes no note of the location of cities, the centres of business, and of canals and railroads, the great channels through which the business of the world is conducted. Such a map might serve well enough for the parched desert of Sahara, or the perpetually ice-covered regions around the poles, but for the habitable portions of the world, the portions in which alone man has any special interest, it is glaringly defective, and so, untrue and utterly worthless for all practical purposes. That so well-trained an observer, as Professor Huxley undoubtedly is, should take no account of man and his works in his picture of our world, is passing strange, when in the very picture he gives us, he finds himself compelled to recognize their existence. Thus, he writes, "plague, pestilence, and famine are admitted by all but fools to be the natural result of causes, for the most part, fully within human control." How can this be reconciled with his statement, "we ignore all possibility of any interference with the order of nature?" And again, "the lightning was the angel of the Lord, but it has pleased Providence, in these modern times, that science should make it the humble messenger of man." By the phrase "science should make it the humble messenger of man," he must mean, that man through his science has made it his humble messenger. Man, and not science, is the efficient agent here.

The Duke of Argyll has well said: "A fallacy is getting hold upon us from a want of definition in the use of terms. 'Nature' is being used in the narrow sense of physical nature. It is conceived as containing nothing beyond the properties of matter. Thus the whole mental world in which we ourselves live and move and have our being is excluded from it. But these selves of ours do belong to nature. Let us never forget, then, that the agency of man is of all others the most natural, the one with which we are most familiar—the only one, in fact, which we can be said, even in a measure, to understand."— The Reign of Law, p. 7.


Professor Huxley tells us, and tells us truly, that man, in our day, has "made the lightning his humble servant"—it lights up his cities when the sun has gone down,—it carries his messages with a speed to which no other messenger can attain,—it is beginning even to take the place of water and steam-power in driving his machinery. And this, which is true in the case of electricity, is true also, to a greater or less extent, of all the mechanical forces of nature. In view of this fact several questions of no little interest at once present themselves:

1. Is man's control of these forces of inanimate nature limited? And if so—how, and to what extent is it limited? "Man's power in respect to these laws," i. e. mechanical forces, "extends only, first to their discovery and ascertainment, and then to their use. He can establish none, he can suspend none. All he can do is to guide, in a limited degree, the mutual action and reaction of the laws," i. e. mechanical forces, "among each other. They are the tools with which he works—they are the instruments of his will. In all he does or can do he must employ them. The more he knows of them, the more largely he can employ them, and make them minister to his purposes."—Reign of Law, p. 12. As illustrating the truth stated above, take the case of the electric telegraph. Man ascertained certain laws governing the transmission and operation of electricity, viz., that through certain substances, "conductors" as they are called, electricity passes freely, and with inconceivable rapidity; and further, that when an electric current is made to pass through a coiled conductor surrounding a bar of soft iron, the iron, for the time being, becomes a magnet; and then, by stretching a wire conductor from one place to another, and arranging instruments at the two ends of the wire so that the continuity of the current of electricity may be broken at will, by the application of his finger, breaking the current in the instrument at one end, the instrument at the other end is made to "click" out every such breakage. Having before arranged that "clicks " of certain kinds represent certain letters of the alphabet, the operator in New York is enabled to "click" out a communica- [211] tion to another operator at the other end of the wire, in London, it may be. In all this, there is no establishment of a new law, or the impartation of a new property to electricity, nor is there any suspension of an old law. The electricity which transmits man's message across the Atlantic to-day is the same in nature, and in the laws which govern it, that electricity has been from the beginning; and man has made it "his servant" by ascertaining those laws, and conforming the action of his will-power thereto.

The fact just stated, that man in making use of the forces of inanimate nature—the only forces of which Professor Huxley's picture of the world takes any account—must first ascertain the laws which govern them, and then conform the action of his will power thereto, will explain to us, in so far as the matter is capable of explanation, how it comes that the free operation of this will-power causes no disorder or derangement in nature. Were there no forces in operation in our world but the forces of inanimate nature, then would the world be neither more nor less than a vast machine—a power-loom, such as Huxley has represented it— and could work out no pattern in the damask it was weaving but that to which it was set at the beginning. Fatalism would be the true philosophy; and fatalism in a form in which it would inflict a death-blow on all effort on man's part to better his condition, and would make progress in science not only utterly useless, but a curse rather than a blessing. Why should an intelligent man labor to attain that which he must know is unattainable? Or, why should he seek to increase his knowledge when an increase of knowledge would be, in nine cases out of ten, but an increase of sorrow? Man may well be thankful for the knowledge that our world is no mere machine, driven by mechanical forces only, i. e., forces acting without thought or will. It is a vast law-governed world in which free will-power is ever at work, often controlling and directing the operation of the mechanical forces inherent in matter; the two classes of forces acting in perfect harmony one with the other; and any picture of it which does not take account of both these classes of forces is essentially defective, and so untrue.

3. A characteristic difference between the free will-power of [212] man and the mechanical forces inherent in lifeless matter, such as gravity, is that the one is guided and governed by mind—mind in the sense of, "The intellectual power in man; the power that conceives, reasons, judges, wills, imagines, remembers, or performs any intellectual operation" (Imperial Dictionary); the other by inflexible law. Man's works all bear the marks of the directing mind of man, and of the knowledge and skill to which he had attained at the time at which the work was done. A traveller through the Syrian desert comes across certain marble columns, some standing, others prostrate, at a point once occupied by the city of Palmyra. At once he recognizes the work of man here—that these columns are the remains of an ancient man-built temple. In what is yet evident in their arrangement, contrivance appears, and in their forms, the fluting of the columns and the carving of their capitals, the architectural taste and mechanical skill of man such as it was in the East two thousand years ago are seen, and there is no doubt in the mind of the traveller that man's will-power has been at work here. Mere mechanical forces, acting without man's direction and control, would never have produced such results as these. The marks of the operation of man's mind may be very faint, and yet, when they appear, Professor Huxley and the class of scientists to which he belongs, are accustomed to treat them as indubitable proofs of man's agency, as in the case of the arrow-heads of chipped flint found in the superficial strata of many lands. They even designate the men whose work they believe them to be as paleolithic or neolithic men, according to the comparative excellence of the work. It may be difficult to define in general terms the characteristic marks of the operation of man's mind, but practically there is very little difficulty in distinguishing man's work from that of the mechanical forces of nature.


The will-power of man is not the only will-power operating as an "efficient cause" in our world. The flight of the eagle toward her eyry on the mountain cliff, the spring of the tiger upon its prey, the darting of the fish through the water, all furnish evi- [213] dence of the existence of a will-power in the lower animals, entirely distinct from the mechanical forces of nature, such as gravity and heat. In these instances will-power in the lower animals acts in perfect harmony with the established laws of inanimate nature just as it does in the case of man, and this, for the reason that it acts under the guidance of mind, using the word mind in its wide sense, as is evident from the results of its action. In the lower animals instinct does the work of reason in man, and within its proper sphere instinct is as trustworthy a guide to willpower as reason.

This agency of the will-power of the lower animals is not something peculiar to the present day; but, as is evident from many traces of its operation it has left behind it, it has been at work through ages antedating the existence of man on the earth; and so like are these results to those effected by the will-power of man that in some instances it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. As instances in point take the following: "Bones have been found cut and polished in deposits which seem to have been immersed in water since man dwelt upon the earth, yet so finely cut and polished as, in the opinion of many, to prove human skill, aided, too, by instruments of rare perfection. Sir Charles Lyell, however, ventured to put among the beavers in the Zoological Garden in London some bones similar to those discovered; and after leaving them for some time, recovered them, cut and polished by the beavers so nearly like the others, as to leave no doubt that in both cases the same agency had been employed. So, in this case, the pre-Adamite man proved to be a beaver, and the perfect tools, which argued such high civilization, the beavers' teeth."—Pierson's Many Infallible Proofs, p. 139. Sir J. W. Dawson tells us, "A very remarkable discovery was made in 1875 by Professor Rutmeyer, of Basle. In a brown coal deposit of tertiary, or at least 'interglacial', age—whatever that may mean—in Switzerland, he found some fragments of wood so interlaced as to resemble wattle or basket work. Steen-strup has, however, examined the evidence, and adduced strong reasons for the conclusion that the alleged human workmanship is really that of beavers."—Origin of the World, p. 386. In view of [214] such facts as these it must be admitted that any picture of the world which fails to take account of the operation of a will-power in the lower animals is essentially defective, and so untrue.


If there be a will-power at work in the world lower in the scale of excellence than that of man, and the proof of the existence of such a will-power, as we have seen, is undeniable, the question will naturally present itself—May there not be a willpower more excellent than that of man at work in the world also? An affirmative answer to this question seems to be demanded by such facts as the following:

1. Thoughtful men from the very earliest times, and in every part of the world, have believed in the existence and continued activity of such a will-power—the will-power of God—working out what we are accustomed to speak of as his providence. Among the earliest records of human thought and opinion which have come down to us, is the celebrated Behistun inscription. In that inscription, as translated by Oppert, we read: "And Darius, the king, says, these are the princes which call themselves mine. By the grace of Ormuzd"—Ormuzd was the supreme god according to the faith of the Persians—"to me they made subjection, brought tribute to me, what was ordered by me unto them, in the nighttime as well as in the daytime they executed. And Darius, the king, says, in the provinces the man who was my friend, I cherished him; the man who was my enemy, I punished him thoroughly. By the grace of Ormuzd, in these lands was my law observed; and what was ordered by me unto them, that they executed. And Darius, the king, says, Ormuzd gave me this kingdom, and by the grace of Ormuzd, I possess this kingdom." Records of the Past, Vol. VII., pp. 88, 89. This belief, often greatly distorted, lies at the foundation of all the ancient religions, and pervades the writings of all the most ancient authors— those of Herodotus among the Greeks, Berosus among the Babylonians, and Manetho among the Egyptians. Another proof of the universal prevalence of this belief in early times we have in the fact, that the most ancient ruins found in all lands are not the [215] ruins of palaces erected as the habitations of kings, nor theatres erected for the amusement of the people, nor forts built for defence against the attack of enemies, but temples erected for the worship of a higher order of beings than man, and worshipped because of the belief that they took an active part in the affairs of the world.

2. To the faith common to all Christian people in our day, Dr. C. Hodge has given expression in his words: "The theory of the universe which underlies the Bible, which is everywhere assumed or asserted in the sacred volume, which accords with our moral and religious nature, and which, therefore, is the foundation of all natural, as well as of all revealed religion, is that God created all things by the word of his power; that he endowed his creatures with their properties or forces; that he is everywhere present in his universe, cooperating with and controlling the operation of second causes on a scale commensurate with his omnipotence, as we, in our measure, cooperate with and control them within the narrower range of our efficiency."—Theology, Vol. III., p. 698. The greatest of English dramatists gives expression to this same common faith in his words

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will."

Even Professor Huxley, when representing the world as a vast machine, in which mechanical forces alone are active, writes: "It has pleased Providence, in these modern times, that science should make it" (the lightning), "the humble messenger of man." Now, whether we regard this recognition of Providence as governing the progress of science, as the expression of a real though unacknowledged belief on the part of Professor Huxley himself, or as merely a form of expression he found current among men, and adopted to make himself understood; it furnishes at once an illustration and a proof that the belief in Providence is a common article of faith among the English-speaking peoples of to-day, the peoples who stand highest in all that is embraced under the comprehensive title of "modern civilization."

3. This on the one hand. On the other, it may be said that while the belief in Providence in all ages and countries has been [216] that of the multitude, there have always been those who rejected the doctrine, the philosophers, as they style themselves among the ancients, and the school of scientists to which Spencer and Huxley belong in our day. This is true. But, then, it is at the same time true that this seems fairly traceable to the fact, that in their study of nature they confine their attention to the mechanical forces at work around them, taking no account of the operation of the will-power of man and the lower animals, and thus are led to give us a picture of nature fatally defective, and, for all practical purposes, utterly worthless.

It is characteristic of the human mind that when its powers are concentrated on the study of even the narrowest field of research all the world outside that narrow field is forgotten, or remembered only as it stands related to the subject-matter of that study. To the enthusiastic entomologist, "the wide world" is little more than a vast hive for the breeding and transformation of insects; and to the devoted florist, the production of a new variety of some favorite flower is an event more interesting than the revolution of an empire. Remembering this, we can account for the fact, that so careful and accurate an observer as Professor Huxley has shown himself to be in the department of science to which he has devoted his life, can trace the operation of gravity, heat, light, and electricity where the common observer does not dream of their presence, and yet take no note of the operation of the will-power of man or God, at work side by side with them. This, if I mistake not, gives us the true explanation of the disbelief in Providence, and, in some cases, in the existence of a personal God, on the part of a few scientists, and if so, that disbelief is entitled to little weight as an off-set to the almost universal belief of mankind in every age and in all countries.

Charles Darwin, referring to his entire loss of all taste for poetry and painting of which he was conscious in his old age, writes: "My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. . . . The loss of these tastes is the loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the[217] intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." And again, "In my journal I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of the Brazilian forest, it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion which fill and elevate the mind. I well remember my conviction that there is more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would not cause any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like a man that has become color-blind, and the universal belief by men of the existence of redness makes my present loss of perception of not the least value as evidence."—Life of C. Darwin, Vol. I., p. 311.

4. The proof of the operation of a will-power mightier than that of man—a will-power such as the common faith of mankind attributes to God—as an efficient cause in the original creation of our world, meets us everywhere. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," wrote a thoughtful man three thousand years ago; and this saying has been repeated by thoughtful men in every succeeding age down to the present, whenever they have given careful study to the structure of the human body. The eye presents us with the most perfect achromatic lens in existence. The hand, as an instrument of grasp, is perfect. The simple hinge of the finger-joint, with the "universal joint" exhibited in "the ball and socket" of the thigh, man has imitated but never equalled. In these, and in a thousand other particulars, the structure of the human body exhibits evidence of a skill and power on the part of the maker far superior to that of man; and to trace them to the agency of mere mechanical forces is but one degree more foolish than to credit them to the operation of chance.

Admitting then, that the operation of a will-power mightier and more excellent than that of man can alone give us an explanation of the marvelous structure of the world—of which man's body is a part—in its origin, is it reasonable to believe that having made, the Creator has abandoned, it? To this question, Professor Huxley would reply, The universe is governed by natural law. " Is it natural law which governs the universe? Or, does God govern [218] it by natural laws? Men perpetually cheat themselves with the idea that law is a power, whereas it is simply the method of a power. Whence the power of the natural second cause? Originally from God. Hence it is utterly improbable (whether we can comprehend it or not) that God shall have so arranged his own power communicated to his works as to obstruct his own personal will. Remember that God is a person, and not a mere anima mundi. He is a sovereign, moral person."—Dabney's Theology, p. 719.


Man occupies a higher position in nature than other animals, in part, because he has reason as a guide to his will, whilst in them the will-power is put forth under the guidance of instinct. The bee can build as perfect comb for storing its honey as the most skilful man can; but, even if it had the might, it could not build a ship or construct a steam engine. Instinct is limited in its range, though perfect within the narrow bounds of its operation; and so must be the will-power which it governs and guides. Reason has a far wider range; and a range becoming wider and wider as science—in the sense of man's knowledge of nature—advances; and so man's will-power can act in a thousand directions where that of the lower animals is powerless. And yet man's efficient agency is limited, and that in various ways. Not so with the efficient agency of that Being, higher and more excellent than man, to whom we give the name of God. As we learn God's nature from the study of his works, he is omniscient—knows and understands nature in all its parts; with him, science is complete—he is omnipresent—not confined to a particular locality as man is—he is almighty—able to accomplish any and every purpose he may form; and hence, while the will-power of man as an efficient agent is confined to matters few in number, and limited to the narrow circle of which he forms the centre, the operation of the will-power of God may be traced everywhere and through all time.

"In that intelligible order," writes Dr. A. Hodge, "which pervades the infinite multiplicity and heterogeneity of events which makes science possible, we see and certainly know the presence of intelligence, of personal will, of moral character, i. e., of all that is [219] connoted by our common term 'personal spirit.' God is seen to be of common generic character with ourselves. The great difference we see is that while we are essentially limited in respect to time or space, or knowledge, or power, God, the personal agent we see at work in nature and history, is essentially unlimited in all these respects. The only reason that so many students of natural science have found themselves unable to see God in nature is that their absorption in nature has made them lose sight of their own essential personality. Hence they have attempted to interpret the phenomena of consciousness in terms of mechanical nature, instead of interpreting nature under the light of self-conscious spirit. But the scientist, after all, comes before his science, the reader before the book he deciphers; and the intelligibility of nature proves its intelligent source, and the essential likeness of the author of nature who reveals himself in his works, and the interpreter of nature who retraces his processes and appreciates alike the intellectual and artistic character of the design."—Presbyterian Review, January 1887, pp. 2, 3.


Among the mechanical forces at work around us the most subtle and mysterious is that to which we give the name of life, or the vital principle. We must class it among mechanical forces because, in so far as we can see, it acts without thought or will of its own. Its subtle operations are known to us through the effects produced, and within its proper range it dominates all other mechanical forces. For example, under its operation rotting matter, which man casts forth as loathsome to his senses of sight and smell, is transformed into the beautiful and fragrant lily; and again, ages ago a particle of carbon was by vital action incorporated in the structure of some gigantic fern or lepidodendron, and when thus fixed it was by pressure and heat made to assume the form of coal. This coal, in our day, is dug from the earth and burned, and so disappears from our sight. It is not destroyed, but, floating about in the atmosphere, it may a second time be laid hold upon by a living organism, and, under the operation of the vital principle, become a part of that organism, plant [220] or animal—it may be of man himself. The story of it's manipulation by this subtle force is more wonderful than the metempsychosis of Eastern fable. The structure of a living plant seems very simple. The cellules of which it is made up, even when studied with greatest care and with the help of the most powerful microscope, seem very much alike in form and structure. And yet, under the operation of the vital principle, crude sap is transformed in one cellule into sugar, in another into starch, and in yet another into coloring matter. We say "under the operation of the vital principle"—for let the crude sap be absorbed by a piece of dead wood, wood which has died so recently as still to retain its original structure—and no such transformations are wrought.

What is this life, this vital principle, this subtle force in nature, working so quietly, and yet so mightily, and with such strange results? We can answer with certainty it is not gravity, it is not light, it is not heat, it is not electricity; it sometimes makes use of one or more of these as man does, but it is something distinct and different from them all. Of its essential nature we know absolutely nothing.

Of its operation we know, (1), That it pervades the whole living organism in which it works. In the growing plant, for example, this vital principle causes the absorption of the crude sap by the roots, its rise through the stem and distribution among the leaves for elaboration by the exchange of certain of its elements with the atmosphere, and then its return and distribution for a further elaboration in the cellules, by which it is transformed into lignine, starch, gum, sugar, and coloring matter, each one of these proximate elements being produced in its own appropriate cellule. This exceedingly complex operation is going on in all parts of the living plant at one and the same time; and with such unfailing accuracy that the typical form and composition of each several part is never departed from; and (2), The vital principle works from within. Living organisms, whether plants or animals, are not builded, as a house is, but grow.

As this vital principle, whether we regard the subtlety of its nature or the wonderful character of the work it accomplishes, must be regarded as the highest form of mechanical force, so, [221] among the will-powers at work in the world, the will-power of God, manifested in his Providence, is undoubtedly the highest form of will-power of which we know anything. And it should cause no surprise, certainly it furnishes no sufficient ground for cavil, that we find it, (1), Pervading the world in all its parts; a truth sometimes expressed by saying that "God is immanent in nature"; nor (2), That we find the will-power of God "working from within," and not from without, as that of man does; that God's providential purposes are not built up, but reach perfection by a process of growth.

Professor Huxley tells us: "Every science must consist of precise knowledge, and that knowledge coordinated into general propositions, or it is not science."—Humbolt Library, No. 21, p. 472. In the coordination of precise knowledge, or facts, in any particular case, it is of the first importance that the coordination embrace all the facts which properly belong to the case. In our courts of justice, a witness is sworn to tell "the truth, and the whole truth''; and this, for the reason that a partial statement of truth is often a most mischievous falsehood. And this partial statement of the truth is just what Professor Huxley is guilty of in his picture of our world according to science, quoted at the beginning of this article. He has taken account of the mechanical forces at work in nature, but utterly ignored the several kinds of will-power at work side by side with them. And, what makes this neglect the more fatal to just conclusions is, that will-power often controls and directs mechanical force; as in the case cited by Huxley himself, where "the lightning is made the humble messenger of man."

Our world is not a great automatic power-loom weaving out the pattern to which it was set in the beginning by the hand that made it. "The harmonious order," of which Professor Huxley speaks as characterizing the progress of events, can be reasonably accounted for in no other way than by considering it the product of the will-power of God—and of one God only—"cooperating with and controlling the operation of second causes on a scale commensurate with his own omnipresence and omnipotence, as we, in our measure, cooperate with and control them within the [222] narrow range of our efficiency." Divine Providence, and neither chance, nor fatalism, is the philosophy to which true science points us.

We have a statement of the doctrine of Divine Providence such as true science demands, made by one of the kings of ancient Babylon in the words: "And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Dan. iv. 34, 35.) Should Professor Huxley ever turn away from the contemplation of mere matter and mechanical force, and "lift up his eyes unto heaven," I doubt not "his understanding would return unto him," and Nebuchadnezzar's faith in Divine Providence would become his faith.

Geo. D. Armstrong.
Norfolk, Va.

Sold for the Benefit of "The Retreat for the Sick."

A half-hour with Robert Elsmere—not the man of that name; for like other heroes of romance, the man is but the creature of the author's imagination; but Robert Elsmere the book.

Robert Elsmere the book is, and is intended to be, something more than a mere novel in the ordinary acceptation of that term. By the London Times "it is placed in the category of clever attacks upon revealed religion. It certainly offers us a substitute for revealed religion; and possibly the thought of the book might be indicated in the words; the Christianity accepted in England is a good thing ; but come with me, and I will show you a better." Gladstone says of it—"Never was a book written with greater persistency and intensity of purpose. Every page of the principal narrative is adapted and addressed by Mrs. Ward to the final aim which is bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh. This aim is to expel the preternatural element from Christianity, to destroy its dogmatic structure, yet to keep intact the moral and spiritual results." Such being the case, reader, you will not be surprised that I, a clergyman, should invite you to an examination of this book, novel though it be; nor will you feel that in so doing I am stepping out of my appropriate sphere.


The two leading peculiarities in the creed of Robert Elsmere the man, and commended to our acceptance in the book are—(i) A denial of the divinity of Christ, and ( 2) The rejection of the Christian miracle, in all its forms.

The author writes—describing Elmere's first distinct conception of his new faith—"In the stillness of the night there rose up weirdly before "him a whole new mental picture—effacing, pushing, out, in- [4] numerable olden images of thought. It was the image of a purely human Christ—a purely human, explicable, yet always wonderful Christianity.—He gazed upon, it fascinated by the strange beauty and order of the emerging spectacle." p. 354*.

* The quotations are from the Seaside Library edition of the book.

Subsequently he is represented as "going through a catechism with himself," in the words—"Do I believe in God? Surely, surely! 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!' Do I believe in Christ? Yes—in the teacher, the martyr, the symbol to us Westerns of all things heavenly and abiding, the image and pledge of the invisible life of the spirit—with all my soul and all my mind."

"But in the man-God, the Word from Eternity—in a wonder-working Christ, in a risen and ascended Jesus, in the living Intercessor and Mediator for the lives of His doomed brethren. He waited, conscious that it was the crisis of his history, and there rose in him, as though articulated one by one by an audible voice, words of irrevocable meaning. Every human soul in which the voice of God makes itself felt, enjoys, equally with Jesus of Nazareth, the divine worship, and miracles do not happen'." p. 374.

What he means by the expression "miracles do not happen"—an expression several times repeated in the book—is made evident by such declarations as—"We are now able to show how miracle, or the belief in it, which is the same thing, comes into being. The study of miracle in all nations, and under all conditions, yields every-where the same results. Miracle may be the child of imagination, of love, nay, of a passionate sincerity, but invariably it lives with ignorance and is withered by knowledge." p. 536, and "The contention of persons in my position is: That to the man who has had the special training required, and in whom this training has not been neutralized by any overwhelming bias, it can be as clearly demonstrated that the miraculous Christian story rests on a tissue of mistakes, as it can be demonstrated that the Isidorian Decretals were a forgery, or the correspondence of Paul and Seneca a pious [5] fraud, or that the medieval belief in witchcraft was the product of " physical ignorance and superstition." p. 445.

Such is the creed, in its two most important particulars, which must give it form in all its parts, commended to our acceptance in Robert Elsmere, the book.


That this creed is irreconcilably at variance with the long established faith of Christendom as expressed in the Articles of the Church of England, and the confessions of all the Reformed Churches as well, the author frankly admits:—perhaps I ought rather to say, emphatically declares, in the course of conduct her hero is made to pursue when once he has distinctly adopted it. He is a regularly ordained minister of the Church of England, pleasantly settled as Rector of the parish of Murewell in Surrey, and busily and most successfully engaged in preaching and laboring among the people of his charge. When he has distinctly adopted his new faith, Elsmere himself says: "If I remain an honest man, I must give up my living, and I must cease to be a minister of the Church of England." p. 399. And he carries out this decision, notwithstanding the remonstrance of certain friends. He promptly resigns his living, renounces his ministry in the Church of England; and feeling himself unable to work in connection with any other of the historical churches of Christendom, he spends his remaining days in laboring to establish "The New Brotherhood of Christ" among the working people of East London.


How was this change in Elsmere's faith brought about? By what arguments was he led to abandon his old faith and adopt the new? If, as Mrs. Ward intimates more than once, "Christianity has broad grounds and deep roots in emotion, but in reason none whatever, " we have a right to expect that in telling us of Elsmere's change of faith she will give us a clear and definite statement of the reasons for that change, at least, in so far as his new faith is concerned. Yet, just here, she fails us utterly.

[6] The story as she tells it is, in substance, this: After Elsmere's settlement at Murewell he conceives the idea of writing a book on "the rise of modern society in Gaul;" and, as "all history depends upon testimony," he is led to study the question—"What is the nature and value of testimony at given times? In other words, did the men of the third century understand, or report, or interpret facts in the same way as the men of the sixteenth or nineteenth?" p. 221. He has free access to the large library of a certain Squire Wendover—a scholarly man, but a pronounced atheist—and for nearly a year, occupies all his leisure time in reading books bearing upon the question in hand, obtained from that library; and during the latter part of the time, in discussions with the Squire himself. Of the arguments used by the Squire, or presented in the books Elsmere read, the author tells us nothing. She does not even give us the names of the books. Instead thereof, she simply chronicles the change, and gives a statement of the conclusions reached.

From the nature of these conclusions, with the help of a hint dropped here and there, we infer that the books read were the writings of Renan (mentioned as an old personal friend of Squire Wendover,) Robertson Smith, Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, and others of that school. The only further intimation of the way in which Elsmere's change of faith was wrought, is that contained in the words—"Perhaps it was his scientific works,"—among other efforts for the good of the laboring men and boys of his parish, he had established a "Naturalist's Club," in which he took a deep interest—"fragmentary as it was, that was really quickening and sharpening these historical impressions of his. Evolution, once a mere germ in the mind, was beginning to press, to encroach, to intermeddle with the mind's other furniture. And the comparative instinct—that tool, par excellence, of modern science—was at last fully awake, was growing fast, taking hold, now here, now there." p. 304.

Of the terrible havoc which the theory of evolution, when fully adopted, may make of a man's faith, Charles Darwin furnishes us a [7] sad example, when he writes, in a letter to his friend W. Graham—"You have expressed my inward conviction, though far more vividly and clearly than I could have done, that the Universe is not the result of chance; but then, with me, the horrid doubt always arises, whether the convictions of a man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value, or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?" Darwin's Life and Letters; Vol. I, p. 285. Strange, that evolution which has wrought out such mighty changes in nature as its advocates contend for, transforming a surging mass of star-dust into our Cosmos, i. e. our Universe in all its beautiful arrangement and order, should not yet have wiped out all traces of its monkey ancestry from the brain of a nineteenth century philosopher, such as Charles Darwin;—Stranger still, that the monkey taint should be of such a character that man can be trusted in such a complex inference as that of the law of evolution, from the ten thousand facts on which that law rests, and yet "a horrid doubt" should hang over its far simpler inference of a designer, from the evidence of design, which meets us everywhere in nature—of a creator from the wondrous works of his hands;—Strangest of all, that this monkey-tainted brain can be implicitly trusted, in determining the existence, and something of the history of paleolithic man, from a study of the chipped arrow heads, and split marrow-bones, found in certain caves and gravel strata, and yet can teach us nothing with certainty, of the existence of a creator, from the study of such a class of plants as the orchids, in their structure exhibiting the many striking adaptations of means to ends, which Darwin has pointed out in his excellent monograph on orchids. Does it not seem, that in a case like that of Darwin, cited above, evolution has made havoc, not with a man's faith alone, but with his common sense as well?

With these facts before us, turn we now to an examination of some of the conclusions at which Elsmere arrived, as the result of his reading.


"'Either God or an imposter.' What scorn the heart, the intellect, threw on the alternative! Not in the dress of speculations which represent the product of long passed, long superseded looms of human thought, but in the guise of common manhood, laden like his fellows with the pathetic weight of human weakness and human ignorance, the Master moves toward him." p. 393. In this summary way does Elsmere dispose of an argument with which our ablest: Christian writers have upheld the divinity of Christ, an argument based upon the claims he made, and the life he lived as recorded in the gospels.

In reply, I would ask the reader's attention to the fact, that the divinity of Christ is not something taught us in a detached passage here and there, but is the great informing truth which determines the course of his life, and the character of his teachings, as they are set forth in the gospels. His story, as there told, begins with the words—"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." Jno. 1: 1, 3, 14. At an early stage of his ministry he publicly exercised the inalienable prerogative of God in saying to a poor paralytic, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee;" and this in the face of the objections of the scribes, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sin but God only," Mark 2 : 5, 7. And the closing act of his life was, to open the gates of Paradise to a dying, but penitent thief, hanging by his side. Luke 23: 43. When to his question, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter replied "thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonas, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 16: 16, 17. When brought before the Jewish sanhedrin, "the high-priest said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus said unto [9] him, Thou has said; nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Matt. 26: 63, 64, and they adjudged him to death for the blasphemy, as they considered it, of this answer. Even in his death his divinity was made evident in so many ways that the Roman centurion who presided at his crucifixion, exclaimed, "Truly, this was the Son of God." Matt. 27: 54. And long "afterwards the infidel Rousseau, on reading the story of his crucifixion, was constrained to confess—"Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ like a God." In all, these and in many other ways, did he distinctly and persistently claim for himself divinity. How he could do this, if he were "a purely human Christ"; possessed of nothing more than "common manhood, laden like his fellows with the pathetic weight of human weakness and human ignorance;" and yet escape the righteous charge of imposture, is, I confess, beyond my comprehension; and to attempt to dismiss the alternative, "either God or an Impostor" with the declaration "the intellect throws scorn upon it," is but a disingenuous attempt to get rid of an argument which cannot be answered. Even Mrs. Ward herself seems to have felt the force of this argument when, in a subsequent portion of the book, she puts into the mouth of Mrs. Elsmere the words—"Your historic Christ," Robert, will never win souls. If he was God, every word you speak will insult him. If he was man, he was not a good man." p. 520.


When Elsmere is considering the question of "taking orders" he has a conversation with his friend and tutor Langham, a confirmed sceptic. Langham says—"Well, after all, the difficulty lies in preaching anything. One may as well preach a respectable mythology as anything else."

"What do you mean by mythology?" cried Robert, hotly.

"Simply ideas, or experience personified," said Langham. "I take it they are the subject matter of all theologies."

"I don't understand you," said Robert, flushing. " To the Chris- [10] " tian, facts have been the medium by which ideas the world could not otherwise have come at have been communicated to man. Christian theology is a system of ideas indeed, but of ideas realized, made manifest in facts."

"How do you know they are facts?" he said, dryly.

"The younger man took up the challenge with all his natural eagerness, and the conversation resolved itself into a discussion of Christian evidences. Or rather, Robert held forth, and Langham kept him going by an occasional remark which acted like the prick of a spear. The tutor's psycological curiosity was soon satisfied. He declared to himself that the intellect had precious little to do with Elsmere's Christianity. He had got hold of all the stock apologetic arguments, and used them, his companion admitted, with ability and ingenuity. But they were merely the outworks of the citadel. The inmost fortress was held by something wholly distinct from intellectual conviction—by moral passions, by love, by feeling, by that mysticism, in short, which no healthy youth should be without." p. 77.

This conclusion of Langham, that the story of Christ given us in the gospels, was but "a respectable mythology," though rejected at the time, was afterwards accepted, and taught by Elsmere.

To say nothing of the objections to this conclusion, founded upon the style of thought and expression which characterize the gospels, a remarkably plain and simple record of facts and teachings that they are, the hypothesis which assigns them a mythological character is in violation of a law of human thought. Mythology has always been written out long after the mythological person has died. The Greek and Latin poets, for example, in giving us the story of Jupiter, tell us that they wrote of that which occurred ages before they were born. In contrast with this, the Evangelists in writing the life of Christ expressly claim that they are telling us that "which they have heard, which they have seen with their eyes, which they have looked upon and their hands have handled, of the Word of life." I John 1:1. —"that they have not followed cunningly devised fables when they [11] made known the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty." II Pet. 1:16,—in short, they claim to write as the cotemporaries of Christ, and to record, that which they themselves have seen and heard; and there is abundant proof, historical and critical, that this, their claim, is well founded. There is a range of mountains in Virginia which has received the name of the "Blue Ridge," because of their soft blue color, when seen from a distance. This, their color, does not belong to the mountains themselves. Seen near at hand they are rocky and forest-covered, grey and green, like all other mountains. It is the hazy mass of atmosphere interposed between them and the eye of the observer, when seen from a distance, that gives them the soft blue tint from which they have taken their name. So is it with mythological story. Without the distance in time interposed between the hero and historian, giving opportunity for oral tradition to do its characteristic work, the hero would be stripped of his marvellousness and his charm.


"His friend's confidence, only made Langham as melancholy as Job. What was it based on? In the first place, on Christianity— on the passionate acceptance of an exquisite fairy tale, said the dreaming spectator to himself, which at the first honest challenge of the critical sense withers in our grasp. That, Elsmere has never given it, and in all probability never will. No! A man sees none the straighter for having a wife he adores, a profession that suits him, between him and unpleasant facts." p. 202.

"Fairy tale! Could any reasonable man watch a life like Catharine's and believe that nothing but a delusion lay at the heart of it? And as he asked the question, he seemed to hear Mr. Gray's answer: All religious are true and all are false. In them all, more or less visibly, man grasps at the one thing needful—self-forsaken, God laid hold of. The spirit in them all is the same, answers eternally to reality; it is but the letter, the fashion, the imagery, that are relative and changing." p. 293.

[12] This idea of the gospel story of the life of Christ as but "an exquisite fairy tale," Elsmere seems to have adopted—and he certainly did adopt it as part and parcel of his new faith—as a consequence of the theory of evolution applied to the mind of man; involving as that theory does a belief in "the gradual growth within the limits of authentic history of man's capacity for telling the exact truth." p. 547. His studies in connection with the book he was engaged in writing would naturally give his thoughts this direction. Belief in evolution led Charles Darwin to the conclusion "that men, at the commencement of our Christian era were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible to us." (Darwin's Life and Letters. Vol. L., p. 278.) Is it any wonder then that Elsmere should have been led to regard them as incapable of writing anything better than Fairy tales. Fairy tales are the delight of our childhood; and I suppose all of us can recall the time when Jack the Giant Killer was believed in as implicitly as Alexander the Great, or Napoleon Bonaparte. In the "Childhood of the World," with "the capacity for telling the exact truth" but beginning to develope, it seems unreasonable to expect anything, in the way of history, better than Fairy tales.

But, if all this be true, and the brains of the Evangelists were so imperfectly developed—were yet so tainted with the monkey blood of their ancestors—that they were "incapable of telling the exact, truth," even about things they saw and heard and handled, how came Matthew to write the Sermon on the Mount, that admirable summary of practical religion,—confessedly the most difficult of all subjects which have ever engaged the attention of man—a sermon which has been the admiration of thoughtful men in every age since it was written; a sermon such as this nineteenth century has produced nothing to compare with it?—Or the Prophet Micah, seven hundred years earlier, to give a definition of religion (see Micah 6:8), of which Huxley says: "If any so-called religion takes away from this great saying of Micah, I think it wantonly mutilates; while, if it adds [13] thereto, I think it obscures the perfect ideal of religion." (Order of Creation, p. 62.)—Or, eight hundred years earlier still; How came Moses to write the law of the Ten Commandments; a writing which, as has been truly said, has moulded and given character to the jurisprudence of the most highly civilized nations on the face of the earth to-day? The truth is—the Sermon on the Mount, and Micah's definition of practical religion, and the law of the Ten Commandments, in the province of human thought, like the temple of Luxor, and the head of the Sphinx, and the Great Pyramid, in the province of human art, are irreconcilable with the theory of evolution in its application to the mind of man. If we are determined to hold on to that theory we can do so consistently, only by assuming that—if facts do not agree with our theory, then, the worse for the facts.

The conclusions of Elsmere, thus far examined, are such as bear directly upon his doctrine of "a purely human Christ." Turn we now to such as bear directly upon his other doctrine of "a purely human, explicable, but always wonderful Christianity;" a doctrine eliminating all miracle, everything supernatural from the history of Christianity.

In explanation of the phrase "miracles do not happen," I have already given two brief extracts, setting forth in Elsmere's own words the conclusions he had reached respecting miracles;—Take now, a third in which Mr. Graham, his chosen friend, and the only one with whom he took consul at the time his change of faith occurred, is the speaker:—"I see, said the tutor, at last, his hands in the pockets of his short gray coat, his brow bent and thoughtful, well, the process in you has been the typical process of the present day. Abstract thought has had little or nothing to say to it. It has been all a question of literary and historical evidence. I am old-fashioned enough—and he smiled—to stick to the a priori impossibility of miracles, but then I am a philosopher! You have come to see how miracle is manufactured, to recognize in it merely a natural inevitable outgrowth of human testimony, in its pre-scientific stages. It has been all experimental, inductive. I imagine—he looked up— [14] you did not get much help out of the orthodox apologists." pp. 386-7.


In order to a fair examination of the question here presented, we must first settle the meaning of the word miracle, as that word is used in Scripture. Mr. Gladstone, in his review of the book under examination, p. 11, gives a good, popular definition in his words—"Miracle, potent, prodigy, are all various forms of one and the same thing, namely, an invasion of the known and common natural order, from the side of the supernatural. They rest upon one and the same basis. We may assign to miracle a body and a soul. It has for its body something accepted as being, either in itself or in its incidents, outside the known processes of ordinary nature; and for its soul, the alleged message which in one shape or another it helps to convey from the Deity to man."

The name by which the miracles of Christ and his Apostles are most frequently designated in the New Testament is semia, in our English version, sometimes rendered "signs," at other times "miracles." Instances of the common use of this word we have in II Cor. 12.12: "Truly the signs (semia) of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." "The signs of an Apostle were the insignia of the apostleship, chose things which furnished proof of his mission from God:—" II Thes. 3:1. "The salutation of me Paul, with mine own hand, which is the token (semion) in every epistle, so I write, i. e. my sign-manual, that by which the epistle may be known to be mine:—Luke 2:12. "And this shall be a sign (semion) unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger;" i. e. by this ye shall be able to know him who is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, Christ the Lord." Let us bear this in mind then, that the Christian miracle is always something more than a "wonderful work;" it is always a sign, a seal, a divine attestation of a message or a messenger sent from God.


"Miracles do not happen." The Christian miracles are not chance events, occurring from time to time, without any sufficient reason. As remarked above, they were all wrought in attestation of a message or messenger claiming to be "sent from God." "It is conceded that sporadic, inconsequent miracles would be difficult to prove. But given a supernatural crisis, a supernatural teacher, and a supernatural doctrine, miracles are found to be in place like jewels on the state robes of a king. All the great miracles recorded in Scripture gather around two great foci in the history of redemption: the giving of the law through Moses and the life and death of the incarnate God. Miracles in such connections are inevitable, and in the highest sense congruous. Their absence would be unaccountable." (Hodge's Lectures on Theological Themes, p. 67.)

Elsmere, even after his change of faith, gives emphatic expression to his belief in the existence of a God. "Do I believe in God? Surely, surely! Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." If there be a God, then there must be for man, his creature, a religion. If there be but one God, then must there be but one only, true religion. And then, the occurrence of miracles will turn upon the answer we give to the question—Is man, left to himself, able to possess himself of this true religion? That man, unaided, is incapable of ascertaining that religion, and the consequent necessity of a revelation from God, Elsmere, and the class of philosophers to which he belongs, ought to be the last to call in question. Darwin, with a brain possessing nineteenth century development, had horrid doubts" as to whether or not there is a God—cannot determine this question fundamental in all religion. Elsmere has no doubt on this point, but, rejecting not only all forms of heathenism, but all existing forms of Christianity as well, he sets to work boldly to determine what this true religion is,—and utterly fails. I say, utterly fails, for (1) what he gives us in the creed of "The New Brotherhood of Christ" is, at best, but a philosophy, and not a religion in the proper [16] sense of that word. It does not even pretend to answer that great first question in all religions, "How shall man be just with God?" And (2) His "New Brotherhood of Christ," if it ever existed, has already gone to pieces. I know that Mrs. Ward tells us, in the closing paragraph of her book, that "The New Brotherhood still exists, and grows"; but the later testimony of a witness upon the spot, contradicts all this. The Rev. Robert Spears, a Unitarian minister, and editor in London, publishes, over his own name, the statement that "Robert Elsmere's work in the slums of London is pure fiction, while the work of Christian men and women of the Church of England and of other churches among the poor of East London is a glorious fact." He protests against Mrs. Ward's pretentious representations and sums up the whole matter thus: "The Theism that is said to have succeeded, failed; and the supernaturalism that is said to have failed, succeeded among the working people of East London." (Philadelphia Presbyterian, of January 12, 1889.)

If man unaided cannot work out for himself the true religion, and I think that all history testifies that such is the fact, then, it he is ever to learn it, it must be through revelation from God; and if God should make a revelation, respecting so all-important a matter as this, it is most reasonable to suppose that the revelation will come properly authenticated—in other words—miracles must happen.


"Miracles the outgrowth of human testimony in its pre-scientific stage." Adopting the theory of Evolution in its widest range, and applying it to man's capacity for giving reliable testimony, for telling the truth, Elsmere rejects the Christian miracles on the ground that the gospel narrative was written by men not yet possessed of sufficient brain-development to be trusted, even when they wrote about things which occurred under their own eyes,—and the only proof he offers that such was their condition is that afforded by the fact that that they lived and wrote eighteen hundred years ago.

[17] In coming to this conclusion on such grounds, Mrs. Ward—for, of course, it is Mrs. Ward's opinions that Elsmere gives expression to—falls into an error common among evolutionists,—the error that the human race, as an undivided whole, has been gradually developing from the beginning; whereas if evolution has been at work among men at all it must have effected them as families, and races, and nations, and not as an undivided whole. This is placed beyond all question, by the fact that tribes, and races, and nations, are living upon the earth to-day in every stage of advancement, from the savage Patagonian, whom Darwin thought but little better than a brute, to the inhabitant of Great Britain basking in the full light of the nineteenth century civilization. The Jews as a distinct people at the time the gospels were written, had been in course of development, certainly for 1500 years, i. e. from the days of their exodus from Egypt. The Anglo-Saxon race, to which Mrs. Ward belongs, were little better than savages seven hundred years ago. Now, if evolution is under control of law—and such is the contention of all its advocates, on what ground does Mrs. Ward assume that the Anglo-Saxon race, in seven hundred years, has become possessed of a brain development so much greater than the Jew in more than double that time, that the one is competent to sift all testimony and detect all truth, whilst the other was left so completely in its childhood that it could produce nothing better than fairy tales? Will not fair application of the law of evolution require us to reverse Mrs. Ward's judgment, and discredit the capacity for telling the truth of the Anglo-Saxon, and to believe in that of the Jew?

The gospels are not the only history written by Jewish writers during the life of the Jewish nation. The Old Testament contains a great deal of history; their own history and that of other nations also:—And, the researches now making in Egypt and the Tigro-Euphrates valley, are furnishing us with very many striking, proofs of the accuracy of these Jewish historians. Prominent among them was Ezra, the Scribe, who finished up the history contained in the Old Testament Scriptures, and set in order the work of earlier historians. Now, the most [18] "advanced" of the Higher Critics does not venture to assign to Ezra's work a date later than the fifth century before Christ. It is a matter beyond all question then, that the Jewish brain was sufficiently developed to tell the truth about what they heard and saw, to write creditable history five hundred years before the gospels were written.


When Elsmere is stating and explaining his new faith to Catherine, his wife, he says: "I believe you think of me as having thrown it all away. Would it not comfort you, sometimes, if you knew that although much of the Gospels, this very raising of Lazarus, for instance, seem to me no longer true in the historical sense, still they are always full to me of an ideal, a poetic truth? Lazarus may not have died and come to life, may never have existed, but still to me, now, as always, love to Jesus of Nazareth is 'resurrection and life.' p. 439.

The idea of the character of the history contained in the Scriptures here expressed as it applies to its record of miracles, is well set forth by Canon Fremantle, of Oxford, in an article published in the "Popular Science Monthly" for June, 1887. In that article he writes— "The theologian of the future will probably be little concerned with miracles. We have all learned to read in a natural sense the account of the crossing of the Red Sea, which even Mr. M. Arnold, some years ago, took as meant to record a violation of physical order. The strong east wind; the cloud which beat in the faces of the Egyptians, but by its lightnings showed the Israelites their way; the waters kept back at low tide walling in the course of the fugitives, but returning upon their pursuers when the tide rose and the eye of God looked forth upon them through the cloud in the morning, lose nothing in majesty and in providential importance when we read them without imputing violations of nature."

As to the miracle of "the raising of Lazarus," no further answer is needed than that which Mrs. Ward puts into the mouth of Catherine, Elsmere's wife—"If the Gospels are not true in fact, as history, as reality. I cannot see how they are true at all, or of any value." p. 439.

[19] Turning to the record of the miraculous passage of Israel through the Red Sea, the miracle which Canon Fremantle selects, I would ask the reader to notice that in addition to the particulars which the Canon mentions, Moses tells us that the cloud which played so important a part in the transaction appeared first at Succoth, that it guided Israel's journey from Succoth to the Sea, that it remained stationary between the Israelites and the Egyptians all the night of the passage, and then continued with Israel as their guide all through their forty years sojourn in the wilderness. In view of all the facts in the case, I submit the question—Is not a thunder cloud which lasts for forty years, which maintains a stationary position all night, in the face of an east wind strong enough to heap up the waters of the Red Sea like a wall, and which sends out all its lightning on the one side and its driving rain on the other, as completely out of the ordinary course of nature as the cloud of which Moses tells us in his narrative, as ordinarily understood?


A summary of Elsmere's new faith, on its positive side, and in its practical application, he gives us in the closing portion of the public address before a working-man's club, in which he first announced it: "And now, my friends, what of all this? If these things I have been saying to you are true, what is the upshot of them for you and me? Simply this, as I conceive it—that instead of wasting your time and degrading your souls, by indulging in such grime as this—and he pointed to the newspapers (papers in which Christianity was made the subject of ribald jest)—it is your urgent business, and mine—at this moment—to do our very utmost to bring this life of Jesus, our precious invaluable possession as a people, back into some real and cogent relation with our modern lives and beliefs and hopes. Do not answer me that such an effort is a mere dream and futility, conceived in the vague, apart from reality—that men must have something to worship, and that if they cannot worship Jesus they will not trouble to love Him. Is the world desolate with God still in it, and does it rest merely with us to love or not to love? Love and revere something we must, if we are to be men and not beasts. At all times and in all nations, as I have tried to show you, man has [20] helped himself by the constant and passionate memory of those great ones of his race who have spoken to him most audibly of God and of eternal hope. And for us Europeans and Englishmen, as I have tried to show you, history and inheritance have decided. If we turn away from the true Jesus of Nazareth because he has been disfigured and misrepresented by the churches, we turn away from that in which our weak wills and desponding souls are meant to find their most obvious and natural help and inspiration—from that symbol of the Divine, which of necessity means most to us. No! give Him back your hearts—be ashamed that you have ever forgotten your debt to Him! Let combination and brotherhood do for the newer and simpler faith what they did once for the old—let them give it a practical shape, a practical grip on human life. Then we too shall have our Easter!—we too shall have the right to say, He is not here, He is risen. Not here—in legend, in miracle, in the beautiful outworn forms and crystallizations of older thought. He is risen—in a wiser reverence and a more reasonable love: risen in new forms of social help inspired by his memory, called afresh by his name!—Risen—if you and your children will it—in a church or company of the faithful, over the gates of which two sayings of man's past, into which man's present has breathed new meaning, shall be written:

"In Thee, O Eternal, have I put my trust: and— This do in remembrance of Me.' " pp. 540-1.

When I read this, it called to memory a story of a sensible, pious "colored brother," who had listened to an impassioned address in which the speaker said many things which he could not understand, and many others which he could understand, but could not believe, when asked his opinion of the address, replied—"Made up of the best of words —Master—the best of words."

Adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States
May 26th, 1886.
By Geo. D. Armstrong, D. D., LL. D.
John D. Ghiselin, Norfolk, VA.

This Defence is, in substance, that made by the author when the matter
was under discussion in the Assembly, at Augusta, Ga., May 24-26, 1886.
"The Deliverance" was adopted by a vote of 137 to 13.

The deliverance on the subject of the genetic evolution of man adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, at its session in Augusta, Ga., May 26th, 1880, is as follows, viz:

"The Church remains at this time sincerely convinced that the the Scriptures, as truly and authoritatively expounded in our confession of Faith and Catechisms, teach that Adam and Eve were created, body and soul, by immediate acts of Almighty power, thereby preserving a perfect race unity.

"That Adam's body was directly fashioned by Almighty God, without any natural animal parentage of any kind, out of matter previously created of nothing.

"And that any doctrine at variance therewith is a dangerous error; inasmuch as by the method of interpreting Scripture it must demand, and in the consequences which by fair implication it will involve, it will lead to the denial of doctrines fundamental to the faith."

In considering this paper the first question which claims our attention is—


In defining the powers of the General Assembly, our Constitution declares: "The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior Courts; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, and in all cases submitted to it, * * * * and, in general, to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth and holiness throughout all the churches under its care." (Form of Gov., ch. v, sec. vi, art. 5.)

1. To the present consideration of this matter the minority report objects that—"The answer which is invoked by these overtures, if granted, would violate our Constitution. (See Con. of Faith, ch. xxxi, art. 4.)" The article referred to reads: "Synods and Councils [4] are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical." At the same time, this minority report tells us that "before one of our lower courts a concrete case is pending involving the matter of these overtures," and concedes that when this matter comes up, by way of judicial appeal, it will be proper for the Assembly "to handle and conclude" it. To this, I answer: (1) The mere form in which a question comes up cannot affect its essential character. If this is an "ecclesiastical" question when it comes up in a judicial form, it must be equally "ecclesiastical" when it comes up by way of overture. (2) "The Form of Government" in the same sentence in which it gives the Assembly authority "to issue appeals," and so to decide questions of doctrine and morals involved in such appeals, gives it like authority "to bear testimony against errors in doctrine, and immorality in practice," when asked so to do, by any of the inferior Courts of the Church.

2. Should the Assembly decide this question in the form in which it is now before it, the decision thus reached will be a decision in thesi it is true. But such decisions, in so far as the settlement of doctrine for the Church at large is concerned, are of equal authority with judicial decisions. The paper on the subject, prepared by Dr. Woodrow and adopted by the Charleston Assembly in 1880, declares. "The judicial decisions of Courts differ from in thesi deliverances, in that the former determine, and when proceeding from the highest Court, conclude a particular case; but both these kinds of decisions are alike interpretations of the word by a Church Court, and both not only deserve high consideration, but both must be submitted to, unless contrary to the Constitution and the Word, as to which there is a right of private judgment belonging to every Church Court, and also to every individual church member." (Assembly's Min. Vol. V. p. 202.) With respect to the liberty of private judgment here claimed, I shall have something to say hereafter. I would now ask you to notice the fact that judicial decisions, and in thesi deliverances are placed upon the same footing in so far as the church at large is concerned—"both not only deserve high consideration, but both must be submitted to, unless contrary to the Constitution and the Word."


The question concerning the genetic evolution of man is, at the present time, before our Church Courts in three different forms. It is before the Four Synods controlling Columbia Seminary, in the form of a question respecting the occupancy of the Perkin's Professorship of that Institution. It is before the Presbytery of Augusta in the form of a judicial prosecution recently instituted against the Rev. James Woodrow, D. D., and, it is before this Assembly by overture from several Presbyteries, asking a deliverance on the subject. [5] It has come up in all these different forms, because in different ways it is troubling the church.

1. It comes before this Assembly by overture, from eight different Presbyteries; and these widely scattered—one in Missouri, one in Texas and one in Virginia. There is not in the Synod of Virginia, in so far as I know, a single advocate of the doctrine, and yet, at its meeting last fall, so large a part of its time was taken up in the discussion "a complaint" originating in the doctrine, that the consideration of the more important business of the Synod was thrust into a corner. The Presbytery of Abingdon from which the complaint just referred to came, has had its time consumed and its patience sorely tried for two years, by having this question continually thrust upon it. I mention these facts to show you that it is not the Four Synods controlling Columbia Seminary, and Augusta Presbytery alone, which are troubled in this way, but that in the church at large it is a cause of disturbance; and so it has come about that overtures, asking for a deliverance by the General Assembly, the highest Court known to our Church, have come up to you from so many different Presbyteries. For the benefit of those who would hence infer the existence of a general drift in our Southern Presbyterian Church towards the doctrine of the genetic evolution of man; I would quote a remark of Dr. Hodge, respecting the Higher Critics, "a few frogs in a miasmatic swamp, make incomparably more noise than all the herds of cattle browsing upon a hundred hills."

2. To the objection to the present consideration of this matter by the Assembly: That a decision by the Assembly will affect the decision of it in its judicial form as it is now before Augusta Presbytery. I reply: Any effect which it may have, will be simply a moral effect, and in a case like the present, where a question is before three different Courts, its decision by any one of them must have a moral effect, on its decision by the other two. The overtures which bring it before us were adopted by the Presbyteries, before the judicial trial in Augusta Presbytery was begun, and so, of right should be first considered.

3. Of the two ways in which a question respecting doctrine can come before the Assembly for decision, viz: as involved in a judicial case, brought up by appeal, and as brought up by overture from the Presbyteries, the latter is, I think, greatly to be preferred to the former. When a doctrine comes up, as involved in a judicial case, there is always, more or less, matter foreign to the doctrine mingled with it; there are side issues of a personal character, which effectually prevent a clear and definite decision respecting the doctrine it
self. The judicial case you decided on the day before yesterday, as it originated in the Presbytery of Abingdon, was a question respecting doctrine: And, as it came before the Synod of Virginia last Fall, it still involved the question of doctrine to a certain extent. But, as it came before this body, the doctrinal element had dropped [6] entirely out; and all you decided was a question of constitutional law, For this reason it is, I suppose, that nine out of ten of the questions respecting doctrine and church order, which come before the Assembly come in the form of overtures, and not through judicial appeals. In the case before us, it is a matter of great importance that the decision should be clear and explicit, for such a decision, and such only will give peace to the Church. Hence, as I think, the question in the form in which it is now before us, is before us in the best form in which it could come up.


Our Confession of Faith declares—"Synods and Councils are to handle and conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical, and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition, in cases extraordinary; or by way of advice for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate." (Con. of Faith, ch. xxxi: art. 4). On this article, Shaw, in his Exposition of the Confession of Faith, writes: "While our Confession denounces any Erastian interference of the civil magistrate in matters purely spiritual and ecclesiastical, it no less explicitly disavows all Popish claims, on the part of the Synods and Councils of the Church, to intermeddle with civil affairs." "Ecclesiastical" is here evidently used in opposition to "Civil": and Ecclesiastical matters are such as properly belong to the Church to determine, as contradistinguished from those which properly belong to the State or Civil Government.

1. That the Westminster Assembly of Divines—the men who framed our Constitution, and prescribed the rule above cited—considered the question before us as properly "ecclesiastical," is evident from the fact that they "handled and concluded" it when they wrote—"After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female; formed the body of man of the dust of the ground, and woman of the rib of the man; endowed them with living, reasonable and immortal souls," &c. [Larger Cat., art. 17) And this conclusion, the Assembly which met in this house twenty-five years ago, and organized our branch of the, Presbyterian Church, indorsed when they adopted the Confession of Faith and Catechisms as our Constitution. This truth the paper before us distinctly recognizes, and hence presents its conclusions, both in form and in fact as an exposition of a deliverance previously made. "The Church remains, at this time, sincerely convinced that the Scriptures are truly and authoritatively expounded in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms, teach " &c. The only fair and honest interpretation of a creed or a covenant—and our Confession of Faith and Catechisms are, for Presbyterians, both the one and the other—is in its "historic sense," i. e. the sense in which they who framed it meant and [7] understood it. Thus interpreted, no one can reasonably doubt that the Westminster Divines, when they used the phrase "created man, male and female" meant, "created by immediate act of Almighty power," and not by any process of evolution from a previously existing brute.

2. The doctrine of the genetic evolution of man, as adopted and defended by its ablest advocates, is generally regarded as distinctly atheistic. At a meeting of the Nineteenth Century Club, in New York, May 25th, the venerable ex-President Porter, of Yale College, read an able paper on Evolution, in which he says—"Evolution is more than a scientific or philosophical question. Pushed to its logical outcome, it comprises therein, ethics, and all the sentiments from which our Christian civilization starts. It destroys the self-conscious agent, and substitutes for it blind materialism. Its logical outcome is mechanical atheism, unsettled morals, and denial of immortality or personality to man or God." (New York Tribune of May 26th, 1886). If this be at all a fair representation of the doctrine in question, surely, no thoughtful man can believe, that this General Assembly will be going beyond its proper sphere in condemning it.


1. In making a revelation of religions truth in such a form as to be easily intelligible to man, especially the "common people," the Scriptures very wisely present us with—not a "Confession of Faith," nor a treatise on "Systematic Theology," but with that truth as it is incorporated in the history of the Church, and the life and experience of God's people in the world. The Bible contains very little didactic discussion, or logical exhibition of the truth it teaches, but is largely made up of history, the biographies of saints and sinners, of psalms, and proverbs and prophecies, and the story of the life and teachings of the God-man during his brief sojourn among men. Admitting, then, as every thoughtful man must, that there is no intention on the part of the sacred writers to teach us science, in the distinctive sense of that term, in the Scriptures; it will be seen at once that the Scriptures, on the one hand, and Geography, History, Ethnology, Archaeology, Psychology, and even Geology, on the other, must often cover the same ground; and that on this common ground the Student of Scripture and the Scientist must meet, and examine the same subjects—deal with the same facts.

2. In seeking to ascertain the meaning of Scriptures, one of the most important canons of criticism to be kept in mind, is one based upon the fact, now universally admitted, that the Bible is written, not in the language of science, but in that of common life—it describes things, not necessarily as they are in themselves, but as they appear to the senses. It speaks of the sun's rising and getting, although science has demonstrated beyond all reasonable question, that this rising and setting, [8] are apparent only, caused by a real motion of the earth upon its axes. This, which is the language of Scripture, is also the language of common life; even when great accuracy is desired, as in the laws of the land. Only a few years ago a law was enacted in Virginia, requiring that all saloons and other places where intoxicating liquors were sold, should be closed, "from sunset of the day preceding an election to sunrise of the day succeeding such election." Disregard of this obvious canon of interpretation led to the opposition of some eminent divines (e. g. Turretin) to the Copernican theory of the solar system, when proposed by Galileo some 300 years ago. And so in our day it has led Prof. Huxley to cavil at the statement in Gen. i. 21, in which "great whales " are classed among fishes, when science has demonstrated that they are mammals, and differ essentially in both structure and habits from fishes. Prof. Huxley, is undoubtedly right as to the scientific classification of whales. Nevertheless, whales will be fishes in the language of the common people, and even learned legislators will enact laws for the protection of "whale fisheries" as long as whales swim in the sea. When in Lev. xi. 19, the Bat is named among unclean fowls, the classification is not that of science—the Hebrew word oph, here translated fowl, means literally a flyer, and in several other places is translated bird—yet, doubtless, the Bat will be a bird in the language of common life, as long as it is seen to wing its way through the air of a summer evening.

3. Science, as presented to us in the writings of the ablest scientists of the day, consists of two distinct and easily separable portions—viz: (1) A mass of facts and phenomena carefully ascertained and classified, a number of particulars generalized, so as to be easily comprehended, and easily remembered, and (2) Certain conjectures, more or less probable, concerning the way in which these phenomena have been produced, and the facts have come to be facts. If these conjectures agree well with all the known facts in the case they are intended to cover, we give them the name of a theory; if they agree but imperfectly, we give them the name of an hypothesis. That the alternation of day and night, at any particular point on the earth's surface, is caused by that point being turned towards or away from the sun, is a fact in astronomy. That this change is owing to the revolution of the earth upon its axis is a theory, agreeing so well with all the known facts in the case, as to be accepted as true by all educated men—although the Rev. John Jasper, the Richmond divine of African descent, yet insists that "the sun do move." That the origination of the light and heat of the sun is to be traced, not to anything of the nature of a combustion of its material, but to its gradual contraction as it cools, is an hypothesis, adopted by some eminent astronomers, and rejected by others. This distinction between ascertained facts, and mere hypothesis is often [9] disregarded, and the same consideration and authority is claimed for the latter as for the former. Through disregard of this plain distinction scientists have not unfrequently assumed positions irreconcilable with Scripture, which they have subsequently been compelled to abandon. As instances in point, in our own day, I mention—the doctrine of a diversity of origin for the human race, in opposition to its unity as taught in Scripture; and, within the last few years—the doctrine of the "spontaneous generation," as opposed to the doctrine that "life can come only from pre-existing animal life," as taught in Gen. i; 11, 22, 28.

4. The Scriptures and the doctrine of Genetic Evolution both cover the ground of the origin of the human race.

(1.) The immediate creation of man, God has seen fit to make a matter of express revelation. So the Westminster Divines understood when they framed Answer 17 of the Larger Catechism, and supported every separate clause of it, by the quotation of Scripture proof. So Dr. Woodrow admits in so far as man's soul is concerned, and woman, body and soul, when he writes "as regards the soul of man, which bears God's image, and which differs" so entirely, not merely in degree but in kind from anything in the animals, I believe that it was immediately created," and he has before stated that immediate creation is the proper opposite of creation by evolution—"that we are so taught. So, in the circumstantial account of the creation of the first woman, there are what seem to me insurmountable obstacles, in the way of applying the doctrine of descent." (S. Presbyterian Review, 1884, p. 350.) So, even Prof. Huxley admits when he writes: "The cosmogony of the semi-barbarous Hebrews is, even at this day, regarded by nine-tenths of the civilized world as the authoritative standard of facts, and the criterion of the justice of scientific conclusions in all that relates to the origin of things, and, among them, of species. (Lay Sermons, p. 178.)

(2.) Science, in so far as it covers the ground of the origin of man, is not—science in the sense of facts and phenomena carefully ascertained and classified, nor science in the sense of theory, generally accepted as true by educated men, but science in the sense of an hypothesis, unproved, according to the confession of its advocates; and declared to have no scientific basis by such scientists as the Duke of Argyle, Virchow, Principal Dawson, and Mr. Etheridge of the British Museum. The era of creation is passed. God ended the work with the creation of man. Creation then, as to its mode, can never become a subject of direct investigation. The only sure information respecting it within our reach is that afforded by revelation. Besides this, the doctrine of creation as set forth in Scripture is undoubtedly a religious doctrine, inasmuch as it ascertains to us, who is author of our being, and of the world in which we live, and therefore the proper object of our reverence and worship.

[10] The ground covered by the paper under discussion, properly belongs to the church. Dr. Woodrow has expressly admitted that "if anything touches the truth of the Word of God, it is ecclesiastical, and a proper subject for this Assembly to handle." That scientists, in the future as in the past, will push their hypothesis into this field, I have no doubt,—and that some timid souls forgetting the distinction between scientific facts and scientific hypothesis, will be inclined to yield the field to them is very probable. But so long as God has covered it with his revelation, the church, if faithful to her trust, can never surrender it. What we have to complain of in this our day, is not the church making deliverances on matters scientific, but certain scientists undertaking to make deliverances on matters "ecclesiastical."


Dr. Woodrow complains that this whole subject is generally misunderstood;—and as illustrating this, he quotes from my "Nature and Revelation collated," p. 47, the remark, that evolution is "a hypothesis which postulates, the transformation of an oak, not immediately, but by successive variations, into a silk-worm, a silkworm into a frog, and a frog into a man,"—and adds, "I never saw any one who came within a thousand miles of believing such a caricature. If this profound student of half a century errs thus in representing evolution, what can we expect from those who have had no such opportunity for study?" Have I, indeed, grossly misrepresented the hypothesis of Evolution? Listen to Prof. Huxley, facile princeps among the advocates of the doctrine, "If the doctrine of evolution be true, it follows that, however diverse the different groans of animals and of plants may be, they must all, at one time or other, have been connected by gradational forms; so that from the highest animals, whatever they may be, down to the lowest speck of protoplasmic matter in which life can be manifested, a series of gradations, leading from one end of the series to the other, either exists or has existed. Undoubtedly this is a necessary postulate of the doctrine of evolution." (New York Lectures on Evolution, Lect. II). Surely the oak, the silk-worm, and the frog will come in somewhere in a gradational series beginning with "the lowest speck of protoplasmic matter in which life can be manifested, and ending with the highest animal "—man.

Why is it that Evolutionists object so strongly to every attempt to give their hypothesis a concrete form,—a form in which the common people can understand it, and cling so persistently to statements in general terms, e. g. "The transformation by successive differentiations of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous,"—"descent with modifications?" Darwin, in so far as, I know, is the only one who has even ventured to give us the evolutionary geneol- [11] ogy of man. Huxley went one step backward; from man to some anthropoid ape; but there stops, and in apparent perplexity exclaims—"There is no one who estimates more highly than I do, the dignity of human nature, and the width of the gulf in intellectual and moral matters, which lies between man, and the whole of the lower creation." (Huxley's Origin of Species, Lect. vi.) Darwin alone pushed on, and tells us,—"Man is descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habits, and an inhabitant of the Old World. This creature, if its whole structure had been examined by a naturalist, would have been classed among the quadrumana, as surely as would the common and more ancient of the New World monkeys. The quadrumana and all the higher mammals are probably derived from an ancient marsupial." The only marsupial common in our country is the opossum—"and this through a long line, either from some reptile-like or some amphibian-like creature, and this again from, some fish-like, animal. In the dim obscurity of the past we can see that the progenitor of all the vertebrates must have been an aquatic animal, provided with bronchiae." i. e. gills, "with the two sexes united in the same individual, and with the most important organs of the body, such as the brain and heart imperfectly developed. This animal seems to have been more like the larvas of our existing ascidians"—sea-squirts, as they are more commonly called—"than any other known form." (Descent of Man, Vol. ii, p. 372.) The one who believes in this outline of man's genealogy, will hardly find himself a thousand miles off, from the one who accepted my "oak, and silk-worm, and frog, and man." And yet, this is a representation of Evolution, from the hand of Charles Darwin, the father of it in its modern form. Why is it that neither Spencer, nor Grant Allen, nor any other of the numerous disciples of Darwin who have written books upon the subject, has even attempted to complete this outline genealogy? Is it because this hypothesis when bodied in particular forms startles them? That like Falstaff with the company he had pressed in the king's service, they are ready to exclaim: "If I be not ashamed of my soldiers I am a soused gurnet—No eye hath seen such scare-crows. I'll not march through Coventry with them, that's flat."


The Scriptures declare that "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul,"—literally "an animal of life, or living animal." Gen. ii. 7.

1. The attempt has been made to reconcile this account of man's creation with the doctrine of evolution by supposing the "dust" here spoken of is "organic dust." Dust is "earth or other matter [12] reduced to a dry powder, earthy substance, anything pulverized," (Worcester); and organic dust must be vegetable or animal matter reduced to a dry powder. In the only form in which we are acquainted with it, it is the soil of the farmer, the humus of the chemist. Thus understanding the term, I see no objection to considering the dust spoken of in Gen. ii. 7, as organic dust. The vegetable and animal creation had been in existence probably for ages, before man was brought into being, and many generations of plants and animals must have lived, died and gradually decayed, leaving their organic dust upon the surface of the mineral earth then as now. The district of Eden in which God "planted a garden," doubtless had a soil. The similarity in ultimate composition between the body of man, and that of plants and animals would seem to render such a supposition altogether probable. It is Dr. Watts, and not Moses, who says God "formed us of clay and made us men."

Evolution is defined by Darwin, as "descent with modifications," and Dr. Woodrow accepts this definition. Descent as predicated of an animal implies birth, and birth implies life in both parent and offspring. But organic dust is a dead thing, and therefore incapable of generating naturally a living progeny. Suppose I take the finest Jersey Cow in the country and reduce her to organic dust, i. e., let her die, and her partially decomposed body assume the form of a dry powder,—what will you give me for the improved calf which shall be the evolute of this organic dust?

Dr. Woodrow says: "The majority report affirms that this pair were created without any natural animal parentage. How do they know this? They were created, it is said, from dust. How long had this dust been created? Some will answer that it was created a few days before. Others, that it was created ages—long geological ages—before. Now, what changes occurred in those ages? You do not know. * * * Who was Adam? Was Adam that which was made of the dust of the ground in the image of God? No; the soul was the man, and nothing became man until it was united with the soul; and if there had been a million of forms like Adam's, it did not become man or Adam until God placed the soul in it." (Quoted from the Augusta Chronicle of May 25th.) I am not certain that I understand Dr. Woodrow here—and I should be sorry to misrepresent him—but, if this be plain English, it seems to me clearly to admit, what I have affirmed above, that in "descent with modifications" there is necessarily implied life on the part of the parent; and to meet this necessity, he supposes there may have been millions of living forms—anthropoid apes, for example—one of which, by the impartation of a soul, became Adam. And, so organic dust in his use of the term, means the living body of an animal, moist with blood and other fluids, and presenting no symptom of decay. Such [13] juggling with words as this cannot be allowed in dealing with the Scriptures.


The paper before you condemns the doctrine of the genetic evolution of man, on the ground that it contradicts the Scriptures as truly and authoritatively expounded in the Confession of Faith and Catechism." That such is the fact, if our standards are to be interpreted in their historic sense, i. e., in the sense in which their authors understood them, has not been called in question. Nor has the other truth, affirmed in styling these documents an authoritative, expositions of Scripture for us, that they are "accepted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, or standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice" (Discipline, chap. iii, art. 1) been denied. But the question has been asked: Is there no liberty allowed a minister in the Presbyterian Church; must all adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechism in every particular, and ipsissimis verbis? To these questions I answer: There is a certain liberty allowed, and the nature and extent of that liberty are defined by the Standards themselves.

"All synods and councils since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred." (Con. of Faith, ch. xxxi, art. 3). And the Westminster Assembly which framed our Confession of Faith and Catechisms is one of these councils. We therefore do not claim for our Standards a right "to bind the conscience." Such authority would imply their inspiration. For Presbyterians, there is but one inspired book, and that is the Bible.

"An offence, the proper object of judicial process, is anything in the principles or practice of a church member professing faith in Christ, which is contrary to the Word of God. The Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechism, of the Westminster Assembly, together with the formularies of government, discipline, and worship, are accepted by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture, in relation to both faith and practice. Nothing, therefore, ought to be considered by any court as an offence; or admitted as a matter of accusation, which cannot be proved to be such from Scripture, as interpreted in these Standards. (Discipline, ch. iii, art. 1). Whilst, then, we do not claim for our Standards authority to bind the conscience, an authority which belongs to the Word of God alone, we do accept them as an authoritative exposition of the Scriptures, and as such, of ultimate authority—authority beyond which there is no appeal—in the actual administration of the government of the Church.

Ministers, and the same is true of Ruling Elders and Deacons, [14] are required at their ordination to answer in the affirmative the question—"Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures." (Form of Gov., ch. vi, sec. iv, art. 2) We do not adopt our Standards ipsissimis verbis, but only "as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures."

4. Offences are either errors in practice, i. e. immoralities, or error in faith, i. e. heresies. Respecting the latter our Standards declare—"Heresy and Schism may be of such a nature, as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much injury." (Discipline, ch. viii, art. 5). In order to establish the charge of heresy against a Presbyterian minister, it is not enough to show that he holds, and even teaches, some doctrine erroneous according to our Standards. It must be further shown that his error "strikes at the vitals of religion," or "is likely to do much injury"; and on these points the proper Courts of the Church must decide.

In accordance with these principles the government of our Church has always been administered; her officers ordained and admonished, suspended or deposed. Our Confession of Faith up to the present meeting of the Assembly, at which a change has been consummated, has declared the marriage of a man to his deceased wife's sister, incestuous. For one, from the time I first examined the subject, I have never believed that this was the doctrine of Scripture. I have always respected it as a part of our constitution; but on the floor of Presbytery, and through the press I have advocated the change which has now been made, and the liberty I have thus asserted has never been called in question. In the common judgment of the Church the error was one which "did not touch the vitals of religion," or "which was likely to do much harm." Our Shorter Catechisms affirms that "the work of creation is God's making all things of nothing by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good," (Ans. 9.) Interpreting these words in their historic sense, there can be no doubt that the six days here spoken of must be understood to be six natural days of 24 hours each. When, many years ago I was examined for ordination, by Lexington Presbytery, I stated to Presbytery that I could not accept this statement as true. Yet, Presbytery, on the ground that my error—and certainly it was an error according to our Standards—"did not strike at the vitals of religion," nor was it "likely to do much harm," proceeded to ordain me; and I have been in good standing in the ministry ever since. I mention my own case in these instances, not because it is singular; but because it is not singular, and because these instances [15] illustrate the degree of liberty allowed in the Presbyterian Church, and the constitutional limitations of that liberty.


The paper before us closes with the statement that the doctrine of the genetic evolution of man "is a dangerous error; inasmuch as by the method of interpreting Scripture it demands, and in the consequences which by fair implication it involves, it leads to the denial of doctrines fundamental to the faith."

1. Our Standards nowhere give a formal definition of the term inspiration; but the Confession of Faith declares that "all the books of the Old and New Testaments are given by inspiration of God, to be the rules of faith and life," and, "the authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God." (Con. of Faith, ch. i, secs. 2, 4.) And in proof of these declarations such Scriptures as the following are quoted, viz: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers, by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son." Heb. i. 1, 2. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Pet. i: 21. "When ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the Word of God." 1 Thess. ii. 13. After all the learned attempts, made in modern times, to define Inspiration, I do not know of any better than that my mother gave me when a child standing at her knee, she taught me to call the Scriptures the Word of God.

The difficulties encountered in attempting to reconcile the genetic evolution of man with the account of his creation, given us in Genesis, has led most of those who have adopted the doctrine, either, to reject the divine authority of the Scriptures altogether, or else, to adopt such views of inspiration as to leave them no longer, in any proper sense of the expression, the Word of God. Charles Darwin never adopted the doctrine in its confessedly atheistic form; but held that evolution was simply "a mode of creation." Judging from the tone and spirit of his earliest published work—"The Voyage of a Naturalist"—he started in life, not only a theist, but with a Christian faith. A short time before his death he wrote—"As far as I am concerned, I do not believe that any revelation has ever, been made." (Letter to a Student at Jena, quoted in Christian Thought, Vol. 1, p. 100.) Prof. Drummond, in his "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," written but a few years ago, whilst evidently an evolutionist, seems to regard the Scriptures as inspired, in the orthodox sense of that word. If such were then his sentiments he must have [16] drifted rapidly; for in his late paper in the Gladstone-Huxley controversy, he deals with the first chapters of Genesis as nothing better than a mythological poem. His words are—"Genesis is a presentation of one or two great elementary truths to the childhood of the world"; and, as illustrating what he means by this, he quotes George McDonald's "Baby's Catechism,"

"Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the everywhere into the here.
Where did you get your eyes so blue?
Out of the skies as I came through.
Where did you get that little tear?
I found it waiting when I got here.
Where did you get that pearly ear?
God spoke, and it came out here;
How did they all just come to be you?
God thought about me, and so I grew."

And he adds "for its purpose, what could be finer or even a more true account of the matter than this; without a word of literal truth in it, it would convey to the child's mind exactly the right impression." (Popular Science Monthly for April, 1886, p. 109.)

The paper before you, does not affirm that all who adopt the doctrine it condemns must of necessity give up their faith in the inspiration of Scripture, but that such is the natural and I would say the logical tendency thereof. I do not doubt the truth of Dr. Woodrow's statement, when he says: "There is no human being living who believes more fully than I do in the plenary inspiration of every word of the Scriptures." But we must remember that it was only a few years ago, according to his own statement, that he adopted this doctrine, and that in a modified form. He was then a man of mature age, and by careful study, firmly established in the faith, and he may be able to hold on to that faith to the end in spite of the strong drift which has swept others away. But that such is not likely to be the case with the young man, whose faith is yet in a formative state if he adopts the doctrine, such examples as those quoted above clearly show.

(2.) Among the "doctrines fundamental to the faith," which the genetic evolution of man, "by fair implication," denies, is the doctrine of "the fall." The Shorter Catechism, after stating that "God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures" (Ans. 10) adds: "Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God." (Ans. 12) and "The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was eating the forbidden fruit." (Ans. 15.) The doctrine of the fall as here set forth takes for granted the historic character of the first chapters of Genesis. To me the Gar- [17] den of Eden is as real as the city of Jerusalem: "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil," is as truly a tree as one of the cedars of Lebanon. That the plucking and eating of the fruit of that tree, first by Eve, and afterwards by Adam, took place just as related by Moses, I believe just as surely as I believe that the Disciples of our Lord, on a certain occasion, "plucked the ears of corn and did eat," as related in Luke vi. 1. The fall, consisting in the loss of man's original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature, commonly called "original sin" is no myth or fable: and one proof of this is, that according to Moses' history, original sin speedily manifested itself in Adam, in one of the meanest ways in which it has been cropping out ever since, viz: in leading him when charged with a fault which he could not deny, to try and lay the blame on his wife. "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Gen. iii. 12.

If man has been evolved from some anthropoid ape, in what condition must he have commenced his life as man in the world? Among scientists in so far as I know, there has never been but one answer given to this question. Man, the evolute, must begin his course on earth, in the lowest condition, physically, mentally, morally, in which it is possible for humanity to exist—the condition of the "cave dweller," the "Paleolithic man." Hence it is that scientists are accustomed to quote all the evidence they collect of the existence of the Paleolithic man naked, and living upon the fruits of the earth, or the raw flesh of such animals as he could entrap or overpower in fight, as just so much proof of the doctrine of evolution as applied to man. If man first appeared in this miserable condition, already as low down as humanity can exist, how can he suffer further degradations? He is at the bottom of the scale; how can he fall. That which is possible in the case of "Adam which was the son of God," (Luke iii. 38), is impossible in the case of Adam Bar—Simia, (the son of an ape).


A few words respecting the language of this paper, and I have done. (1.) The term evolution is not anywhere used, and its use is avoided of purpose; for to the disgrace of our modern science it has come to cover all sorts of meanings. As Dr. McCosh has truly said, evolution is like the "great sheet" which Peter saw—"knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth, wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air" (2). "Adam and Eve were created, body and soul, by immediate air acts of Almighty power." Dr. Woodrow has asked—"What do you mean by immediate?" and Dr. Smoot has well answered by quoting from Dr. Woodrow's Columbia address, in which he puts immediate [18] creation over against mediate creation or evolution; treating the one as exclusive of the other. (3). "thus preserving a perfect race unity." By this we mean that the first marriage, solemnized by God himself, was not a misalliance; that there was no more ape-blood in Adam's veins than there was in Eve's. The language of the paper is not the language of science, but the language of common life. It is a definite, clear-cut answer to the overtures sent up to this Assembly; one which people will understand; and which I trust will give peace to our Church.

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