Sunday, 3 April 2016


 Now turn for one moment to another subject. Whilst this debasing and brutalising process has been going on at home, have the people been increasing in Christianity ? Are they tending towards the Religion of Denial, or towards that Religion which it so violently opposes? Have men been more and more impressed that they have "to be perfect as their Heavenly Father is Perfect,"— which is the Christian principle of morality and happiness; or that they have to enjoy themselves as hogs, if that happen to please them most— which is the fundamental principle of the Religion of Denial ? Let me quote an enemy to Christianity on this point, and then a friend; and you will see how they bear the same testimony:—"A very large proportion," says Greg, probably the majority, of the operative classes in towns are total unbelievers; and these are not the reckless and disreputable, but, on the contrary, consist of the best of the skilled workmen, the most instructed and thoughtful as well as the steadiest. The hard-headed, industrious, reading engineers and foremen, the members of mechanics' institutes, the natural leaders of the artizans, are sceptics intellectually, not morally ; they disbelieve because they have enquired, argued, and observed, and have been unable to obtain from their Methodist fellow-workmen, or even from Ministers of the Gospel, satisfactory answers to their doubts. Among manufacturing artizans and the highest description of citizen labourers, it may be stated, with even more confidence than of the ranks above them in the social scale, that the intellect of this body is already divorced from the prevalent creeds of the country. The range and form of this scepticism varies widely in the different classes. Among the working men it is for the most part absolute Atheism, and is complicated by a marked feeling of antagonism towards the teachers of Religion, a kind of resentment growing out of the conviction that they have been systematically deluded by those who ought to have enlightened them. Thinkers of the higher order amongst the educated classes, and more especially, scientific men, by no means as a rule go so far as this, but content themselves with pronouncing God to be unknowable and His existence unprovable ; the distinctive doctrines of Christianity, and the details of its historical basis neither made out nor in any way admissable, and a future life to be a matter of pure speculation, which may or may not be in store for us, but as to which no rational man would dare to dogmatise. Literary men and scholars are often sceptical merely as to special creeds, though sincerely and deeply religious in tone and temperament. But all concur in repudiating existing forms of Christianity— that is the common religion of the nation; the Jehovah of the Bible, the heaven and hell of Divines and priests, the Resurrection of the Gospels, and the salvation formulas of creeds and churches." (Greg's Rock's Ahead," p. 131.). . . "The shrewd honest mechanic cannot half say one thing and believe another, and has no great respect or trust for the man who can. His instrument of thought is not delicate enough to play with dogmas, and want of downright assertion and negation appears like want of integrity to him. He cannot suspend his judgment ; with him unbelief immediately and inevitably becomes disbelief, and disbelief fast becomes mixed with contempt and indignation towards the sceptic or half believer, whom he regards as coquetting and tampering with the unclean thing. Nebulous tenets, vague dissent, luminous conceptions with a coloured halo round them, are not for the skilled workman; he is angry with the teachers of a church that has so long misled him, and seems bent on mystifying him still. When the lower classes reach the point, therefore, of abandoning Christianity, their rejection of it will be not, as often among the upper ranks, languid and reserved, but absolute and most probably resentful. Their disbelief will be apt to be as intolerant and dogmatic as the credence of the orthodox." (Ibid, p. 138.) Now take the words of a friend. "The advance of infidelity," says an able writer in "The Month," among a large portion of the generation now entering, or having entered, upon the full enjoyment and use of life, has reached the line, at which even morality becomes a sentiment rather than a law; conscience a phenomenon, rather than the voice of God sitting in judgment; free-will and responsibility an imagination; the universe a physical system, self-evolved and self-regulated; the soul of man a mechanism; the future of man a blank; sin, original and actual, a fiction; the Atonement, an impossible superstition." Again— The advance of infidelity and of its inseparable shadow, immorality, among the lower classes of our towns, the extreme activity with which the poison is spread in books, in cheap newspapers, by lectures and the like, and the measures by which this activity should be met with on the side of all who are for Religion and for God, should be subjects of earnest thought and meditation for all who have duties which bring them frequently across the evils which have just been enumerated. . . . No one whose occupations lie among considerable numbers of men can pass many days or even many hours without hearing religious subjects discussed, and the discussion will too often take a blasphemous tone. The mechanic, the young man in the house of business, the clerk in the office, however good and sound their faith may be, will often hear statements which they cannot contradict, though they feel them to be false arguments which they cannot answer, though they know them to be fallacious. It is often the case that such persons have to spend the greater part of their time in company in which irreligious talk is usual or perpetual. ("Month," Sept., 1874.)
 Here, then, we have two facts of momentous import staring us in the face; the first is, that the British nation is becoming more and more brutalized ; and the second is, that it is becoming more and more infidel— that it is taking up the Religion of Denial, and rejecting that form of Christianity offered it by Protestantism. I ask calm-judging men whether or not there is a relation of cause and effect between the process of brutalizing and the fundamental principle of the Religion of Denial? I ask them seriously whether or no, if there is no God in Heaven, and if man is merely an expanded mud-fish, with no freedom of will, no spirituality, no responsibility, but with violent lusts and cravings— whether or no, if such be the case, anyone in the world can blame him for doing exactly as he likes and getting as much pleasure gross or otherwise as he can compass during his short career on earth— if a man be a dog or a hog, why not act as such? What law has to hinder him from seeking to satisfy that particular craving that is strongest, and indulging in that especial excess which gives him the most exquisite delight? I cannot even imagine any reason why he should not; I can see every reason why he should; and every reason why he will and why he does; for if there be no God or Lawgiver, and if man is merely a piece of carbon, how can he help himself, or even dream of doing anything except squeeze the greatest amount of pleasure for himself out of life, in the most successful way he can. Brutalization is a direct consequence of the Religion of Denial; as civilisation is a direct consequence of the Religion of Affirmation, of the Religion of the Cross. Even the more conscientious theoretical promoters of the Religion of Denial shrink back, at least at present, from the full consequences of their principles. They are, fortunately, some of them, better than their creed and have upon them the pressure of that Christian tradition which they cannot throw off; but which, unless something be done, will lose its hold over society more and more every day. So far we may thank the Christianity which still remains to us that things have not progressed still more rapidly than they have towards brutalization. 
"The Christianity which yet remains diffused amongst us," says Dr. Mivart, "and the refinement of modern manners, render the open practice of licentiousness and sanguinary rites as yet impossible ; but the spirit which prompted them finds in this system of contemporary antitheists its complete and logical justification, as it has found in a contemporary poet its distinct lyrical expression—the tendency of this movement is to approach little by little to this worst phase of Paganism, as the corruption of morals gradually increases through the temporary decreasing influences of Christianity upon the outer surface of society. Already we have advocated the murder of the infirm, the sick the suffering, the old, as well as self-murder. Free-love has not only its advocates, but its avowed votaries; and a hatred of marriage and the family tie is one of the sentiments common to those political enthusiasts, who claim for themselves par excellence the title of Advanced." ("Contemporary Evolution," pp. 43,44.) Virchow distinctly tells us that "Socialism," the political expression of the Religion of Denial, is intimately connected with the mud-fish theory of evolution:—
"Gentlemen," he exclaims to the assembly of German savants, "I will only hope that the evolution theory may not bring upon us all the alarm that similar theories have actually roused in the neighbouring country. At all events, this theory, if consistently carried out, has a very serious aspect, and trust it  has not escaped your notice that Socialism has already established a sympathetic relation with it. We must not conceal these facts from ourselves. ("Freedom of Science,"p.19.)
See now how this principle of the Religion of Denial is corrupting the whole mass of civilized society—society which owes all its moral elevation to the  Religion of Affirmation. I do not presume to use my own words to show you this. One has just spoken who sits on the high watchtower of the world, and takes in, at a glance, the condition of all nations, even of the furthest from his throne. What has Leo XIII. just told the bishops of the world regarding the present condition of human society? He describes the character of that Religion of Denial, which in point of fact has been evolved from the theory of the mud-fish. His words are too weighty and too important not to be quoted in this connection. He shows clearly which way the world is drifting, having broken loose from the Christian principle, and having adopted that of Unbelief. The very fact of his speaking as he does shows his direct antagonism towards it, and its absolute antagonism to him. "As the nature of Our Apostolic office required of Us," he says, "from very beginning of our Pontificate, in an Encyclical letter addressed to you, Venerable Brethren, We did not neglect to advert to the deadly pestilence which is creeping through the innermost frame of human society, and brings it into the extremity of danger, and We at the same time pointed out the most efficacious remedies by which it may be restored to health and may escape the very grave dangers which threaten it. But these evils which we then deplored have in a short time increased to such a degree that We are constrained to address you again, the voice of the Prophet as it were ringing in our ears : Cry aloud and cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet. You will easily understand, Venerable Brethren, that We speak of that sect of men who are called by different and almost barbarous names, Socialists, Communists, or Nihilists, and who, scattered through the whole world, and most closely bound together by most unholy ties, no  longer seek safety in the shades of secret assemblies, but boldly coming forward into the light of day, strive to accomplish the design which they have formed long since of overthrowing the foundations of every civil society. These are they who, as the Divine oracles testify,  defile the flesh, despise dominion and blaspheme majesty.  Nothing which has been wisely enacted by human or divine laws for the security and adornment of life is left by them intact or entire. They refuse obedience to the higher powers, to which, according to the admonition of the Apostle, every soul ought to be subject, and which derive their right of governing from God, and they preach the equality of all men in rights and offices. They dishonour the natural union of the man and woman, which even barbarous nations hold sacred, and weaken or even sacrifice to lust the bond of that union, by which principally domestic society is held together. Allured, moreover, by the desire of present good, which is the root of all evils and which some coveting have erred from the faith, they impugn the right of property sanctioned by the Law of Nature, and by a monstrous crime, while they appear to meet the wants and satisfy the desires of all men, they aim at seizing and holding in common whatever has been acquired by the title of lawful inheritance, or by the intellect, or the labour of the hands, or by frugal living. And these portentous opinions they publish at their meetings, inculcate in pamphlets, and scatter among the lower orders in a cloud of journals. From this it results that the reverend majesty and rule of kings has so incurred the hatred of a seditious populace, that nefarious traitors, impatient of every restraint, have more than once within a short space of time, in impious daring, turned their arms against the Princes of the realm themselves. But this audacity of perfidious men, which threatens greater ruin to civil society, and strikes the minds of all with anxious fear, derives its cause and origin from those poisonous doctrines, which, scattered in former times like corrupt seed among the peoples, have borne such pestilential fruit in their season. . .The object of the war has been that, by setting aside all Revelation, and the subversion of every kind of Supernatural order, an entrance might be cleared for the discoveries, or rather the delirious imaginations of mere Reason. This kind of error, which wrongly usurps the name of Reason, as it entices and sharpens the desire of superiority naturally implanted in man, and gives a loose rein to desires of every kind, has spontaneously penetrated to the widest extent not only very many minds but civil society itself. Hence it has come to pass that, by a novel impiety, unheard of even among the heathen nations, states have been constituted without taking any account of God and of the order established by Him ; it has been, moreover, declared that public authority derives neither its principle nor its majesty, nor its power of command from God, but rather from the multitude of the people— which, thinking itself absolved from all Divine sanction, has determined to acknowledge only these laws which itself has framed according to its own good pleasure. The supernatural verities of Faith having been impugned and rejected as if they were inimical to reason, the Author and Redeemer Himself of the human race has been, insensibly, and little by little forcibly banished from the Universities, the Lyceums, the Gymnasiums, and from every public institution connected with the life of man. Finally, the reward and punishment of the future and eternal life being relegated to oblivion, the ardent desire of happiness has been confined within the span of this present life. These doctrines having been disseminated far and wide, this so great license of thought and action being everywhere introduced, it is no wonder that men of the lowest class, weary of a poor home or workshop, should desire to invade the palaces and fortunes of the rich; it is no wonder that there now exists no tranquillity in public or private life, and that the human race has nearly reached its lowest depth." (Given 28th Dec, 1878.)
 Well may the very professors of the Religion of Denial groan in spirit when they see their work. "There are few reflective persons," says Bradlaugh, "who have not been, now and again, impressed with awe as they look back on the past of humanity. . . It is then that we see the grandest illustrations of that unending necessity under which, it would seem, man labours, the necessity of abandoning ever and again the heritage of his fathers, . . . of continually leaving behind him the citadel of faith and peace, raised by the piety of tho past, for an atmosphere of tumult and denial. . . Whatever may be our present conclusions about Christianity, we cannot too often remember that it has been one of the most important factors in the life of mankind." (National Reformer, October 6, 1878.) Listen to the cry of another writer in his agony, who has made shipwreck of his faith. "Does that new philosophy of history," asks Glennie, 'which destroys the Christian philosophy, of itself afford an adequate basis for such a reconstruction of the ideal as is required? Candidly, we must reply, 'Not Yet.'. . . Very far are we from being the first who have experienced the agony of discovered delusion." ("In the Morning Land," p. 29.) "Never in the history of man," says another, "has so terrific a calamity befallen the race, as that which all who look may now behold advancing as a deluge, black with destruction, resistless in might, uprooting our most cherished hopes, engulfing our most precious creed, and burying our highest life in mindless desolation. The floodgates of Infidelity are open, and Atheism overwhelming is upon us. . . Man has become in a new sense, the measure of the universe; and in this, the latest and most appalling of his soundings, indications are returned from the infinite voids of space and time that his intelligence, with all its noble capacities for love and adoration, is yet alone— destitute of kith or kin in all this universe of being. . . Forasmuch as I am far from being able to agree with those who affirm that the twilight doctrine of the "new faith" is a desirable substitute for the waning splendour of "the old," I am not ashamed to confess that, with the virtual negation of God, the universe to me has lost its soul of loveliness. And when at times I think, as think at times I must, of the appalling contrast between the hallowed glory of that creed which once was mine and the lonely mystery of existence as now I find it, at such times I shall ever feel it impossible to avoid the sharpest pang of which my nature is susceptible.(" Physicus : On Theism," p. 51.)
"We cannot judge of the effects of Atheism," says Sir J. Stephen, "from the conduct of persons who have been educated as believers in God, and in the midst of a nation that believes in God. If we should ever see a generation of men, especially a generation of Englishmen, to whom the word God had no meaning at all, we should get a light upon the subject which might be lurid enough." ("First Principles," p. 117.)
" Few, if any," even Herbert Spencer says, "are as yet fitted wholly to dispense with such [religious] conceptions as are current. The highest abstractions take so great a mental power to realize with any vividness, and are so inoperative upon conduct unless they are vividly realized, that their regulative effects must for a long period to come be appreciable on but a small minority. . . . . .  Those who relinquish the faith in which they have been brought up, for this most abstract faith in which Science and Religion unite, may not uncommonly fail to act up to their convictions. Left to their organic morality, enforced only by general reasoning imperfectly wrought out and difficult to keep before the mind, their defects of nature will often come out more strongly than they would have done under their previous creed." ("Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," p. 825, 2nd Ed.) In a word, it is as about as easy for the soul and moral sense to live upon abstractions and false maxims as it is for the body to get fat on air. There is a sense within man too strong for all the infidel logic in the world. We know that behind the veil there is One who personally knows and loves us, we know it as surely as that we personally know and love him in return. We are forced to exclaim, in the words of Lowell:

God of our fathers, Thou who wast,
Art, and shalt be when the eye-wise who flout
Thy secret presence shall be lost
In the great light that dazzles them to doubt,
We who believe Life's bases rest
Beyond the probe of chemic test,
Still, like our fathers, feel Thee near !

And besides this, we know, moreover, that the Religion of Denial, far from being approved of even by those who do not hold with Christianity, is looked upon by the more far-seeing amongst them as a mere empty hypothesis. It is not its truth, but the license it allows that makes it palatable with the multitude. Scientific men themselves, men that is, who are philosophers as well as scientists, are, by their inexorable logic, drawing it down from its pedestal, and displaying it in its veritable colours. Founded on falsehood, it is the fruitful parent of every species of debasement. Allow me to quote the London Times' correspondent, giving a summary of Häckel's teaching, as delivered before the German naturalists in Munich, 1877, and the reply of Virchow. The correspondent says that "having contended that the Biblical account of this planet's creation has long been demolished by geology, Herr Häckel wondered that morphology should have been so slow to come forward and explain the origin and diversity of the animal world. According to him, the two principles of inheritance and adaptation explain the development of manifold existing organisms from a single organic cell while, were further argument needed to disprove supernatural intervention, we have only to turn to the frequent occurence of undeveloped and useless organs in many types of the animal world, to realize the truth. In this way the Creator is disposed of, not only as superfluous, but as a Being who, if He existed, instead of being all-wise, would every now and then have committed the indiscretion of attempting to create eyes and wings which His power did not suffice to perfect. Then, passing on to the omnipotent cell constituting the groundwork of animal bodies, he referred his audience to certain zoological inquiries proving the possessing of motion and sensibility, of perception and will, even by those primary organisms consisting of but a single cell. Everything thus being dependent upon the cell, the lecturer at this stage became interested in the matter forming this marvellous organism. The cell, then, consists of matter called protoplasm, composed chiefly of carbon, with an admixture of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulphur. These component parts, properly united, produce the body and soul of the animated world, and, suitably nursed, become man. With this simple argument the mystery of the universe is explained, the Divinity annulled, and a new era of infinite knowledge ushered in. It was a fitting conclusion to such a scientific pronunciamento that the lecturer, who regarded his argument as incontrovertible, insisted that it should be taught in every school in the land." (The Times, Nov. 30, 1877.) Here, then, is Häckel dogmatically laying down a teaching which is subversive of the whole scheme of Natural and Supernatural Religion here is an "advanced thinker," an Apostle of the Religion of Denial urging that such teaching should be made a portion of the National Education. And here, on the other hand, is another "advanced thinker" absolutely contradicting him, and declaring that Häckel's doctrines are merely "fancies," and not established truths at all. Listen to Virchow's own words: "It is easy to say that 'a cell consists of small portions, and these we call Plastidules,' and that plastidules are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, and are endowed with an especial soul; which soul is the product of some of the forces which the chemical atoms possess. To be sure this is possible. I cannot form an exact judgment about it. It is one of the positions which are for me still unapproachable. I feel like a sailor who puts forth into an abyss, the extent of which he cannot see. But I must plainly say that, so long as no one can define for me the properties of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, in such a way that I can conceive how from the sum of them a soul arises, so long am I unable to admit that we should be at all justified in imparting the 'plastidulic soul' into the course of our education, or in requiring every educated man to receive it as scientific truth so as to argue from it as a logical premiss, and to found his whole view of the world upon it. This we really cannot demand. On the contrary, I am of opinion that, before we designate such hypotheses as the voice of Science—before we say, 'This is modern Science'— we should first have to conduct a long series of elaborate investigations. We must therefore say to the teachers in schools, 'Do not teach it.'" (" Freedom of Science," p. 23, 45.) Farther on he exclaims, after speaking of how Oken taught a doctrine as absolutely true which turned out to be absolutely false : "Gentlemen, let us not fail to profit by the experience of that great naturalist; let us not forget that when the public see a doctrine— which has been exhibited to them as certain, established, positive, and claiming universal acceptance— proved to be faulty in its very foundations, or discovered to be wilful and despotic in its essential and chief tendencies, they may lose faith in Science. Then break forth the reproaches : 'Ah, you yourselves are not quite sure; your doctrine, which you call truth to-day, is to-morrow a lie; how can you demand that your teaching should form the subject of education, and a recognized part of our general knowledge?' " (Ibid, p. 41.)
 And surely now I have said enough. I have shown you that the fundamental principle on which the Religion of Denial is based leads back logically and inexorably towards that state of bestiality from which "modern thought" says man has sprung. You have seen with your logical eyes that you cannot get more out of a thing than is in it; and if it be really true that there is no God, and that man is simply a mud-fish, that mud-fish never can be blown out into anything higher or better, or more noble than the stuff out of which it comes. A soap-bubble may reflect all the colours of the rainbow, but it will be a soap-bubble still— it will burst when brightest, and you will find there is nothing in it. I have shown you how this bubble of "Denial," whilst pretending to take the place of Christianity, is the absolute death of every moral principle, and of all religion worthy of the name. I have shown you how the cowardly, or at least the unmanly way in which scientific men treat the profoundest questions, creates suspicion; and how others, with less head, but, perhaps, more courage, sweep their cobwebs on one side and boldly deny God's existence altogether. I have drawn your attention to the fact that no sooner is God denied and man declared a mere protoplasm than minds are at once actively engaged in forming plans by means of which they make use of their new freedom from restraint, and indulge in every species of immorality and viciousness, so long as it gives them personal pleasure to do so. I have shown you how these teachings inevitably drag the human race down to the very mire and how philosophers do not shame to suggest to their disciples that the life of a hog is the happiest life for them. I have called your attention to the picture drawn by Thomas Carlyle of "the universal swine's-trough" which man has now to wallow in, that is if he be true to the Religion of Denial, and to the bestial nature Denial says is his; and I have corroborated, by undeniable statistics, the teaching of Carlyle, showing how the masses of the English people at home are plunging deeper and deeper in brutalization and infidelity as days go by. I have shown you that this is the natural effect of an intelligible cause— of the people giving up Christianity and taking to the Religion of Denial, and thus providing for themselves a logical justification for all the enormities which they commit. I have suggested how crime is but the fruit which is produced by the tree of Infidelity; and that unbelief and bestiality are intimately related as cause and as effect. I have shown you, moreover, from Virchow's teaching, that the Religion of Denial and Socialism are in closest sympathy, and, by quoting the words of Pope Leo XIII. in his Encyclical, I have drawn your attention to the fact, which any one can see the truth of at a glance, that the chaos and confusion into which religion and civil society are plunged all over the world are due to the action of that same principle of collapse. I have suggested that it is Christianity, even in those men who trample on it, which makes them better than their principles, and that still preserves the world from absolute destruction. I have shown how the very champions of the Religion of Denial are terrified by its effect, and cry out in despair that they have been deceived in their anticipations and, finally, I have called your attention to the curious circumstances that these very champions themselves are fighting with each other and that what is declared by Häckel to-day to be a victorious discovery of Science is declared by Virchow to-morrow to be a mere craze on his opponents mind, without any underpin of logic for its support— the very fundamental principle of the Religion of Denial being proved to be no principle at all, but a subjective fancy or maggot in the mind of a naturalist who is possessed by a special anxiety to upset the Christian creed. When to all this is added what I have already proved; that it is reasonable to hold man to be a man, and not a mud-fish and that there is a God ruling heaven and earth, instead of no God at all; these two facts being substantiated, the very ground has, by the doing so, been cut from under the feet of the Religion of Denial, and is convicted of being not merely shallow, but a stupid as well as a deadly poisonous deceit, used by intellectual criminals or by superficial thinkers without sense of responsibility, for upheaving the deep foundations of Supernatural Religion, and of that morality which must ever be synonymous with restraint. I do not dare to trust myself to speak of such men as these, who, by means of a blasphemous and lying philosophy, have brought so much ruin and desolation into the homes of my fellow-men.
 Next Sunday I hope to show you the bright side of the picture, for this evening our work has been sad enough. I shall aim at giving you sufficient reason for coming to the conclusion that, whilst the Religion of Denial is shallow and something worse, as has been proved, the Religion of Affirmation, or Christianity, on the other hand, is reasonable, and should be embraced by every sane and prudent man.

New Zealand Tablet 23 May 1879

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