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seems to them-if they dare confess as muchan unnecessary superstition.
Only poor folk in cottages and garrets—and a few more who are, happily, poor in spirit, though not in purse—grinding amid the iron facts of life, and learning there by little sound science, it may be, but much sound theologystill believe that they have a Father in heaven, before whom the very hairs of their head are all numbered; and that if they had not, then this would not only be a bad world, but a mad world likewise ; and that it were better for them that they had never been born.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe in the special providence of our Father in heaven. Difficult : though necessary. Just as it is difficult to believe that the earth moves round the sun. Contrary, like that fact, to a great deal of our seeming experience.
It is easy enough, of course, to believe that our Father sends what is plainly good. Not so easy to believe that he sends what at least seems evil.
Easy enough, when we see spring-time and
harvest, sunshine and flowers, to say—Here are
acts of God's providence. Not so easy, when we see blight and pestilence, storm and earthquake, to say,--Here are 'acts of God's providence’ likewise.
For this innumerable multitude of things, of which we now-a-days talk as if it were one thing, and had an organic unity of its own, or even as if it were one person, and had a will of its own, and call it Nature—a word which will one day be forgotten by philosophers, with the 'four elements, and the 'animal spirits '—this multitude of things, I say, which we miscall Nature, has its dark and ugly, as well as its bright and fair side. Nature, says some one, is like the spotted panther—most playful, and yet most treacherous ; most beautiful, and yet most cruel. It acts at times after a fashion most terrible, undistinguishing, wholesale, seemingly pitiless. It seems to go on its own way, as in a storm or an earthquake, careless of what it crushes. Terrible enough Nature looks to the savage, who thinks it crushes him from mere caprice. More terrible still does science make Nature look, when she tells us that it crushes, not by caprice, but by brute necessity; not by ill-will, but by inevitable law. Science frees us in many ways (and all thanks to her) from the bodily terror which the savage feels. But she replaces that, in the minds of many, by a moral terror which is far more overwhelming. Am I —a man is driven to ask-am I, and all I love, the victims of an organized tyranny, from which there can be no escape—for there is not even a tyrant from whom I may perhaps beg mercy? Are we only helpless particles, at best separate parts of the wheels of a vast machine, which will use us till it has worn us away, and ground us to powder? Are our bodies and if so, why not our souls ?—the puppets, yea, the creatures of necessary circumstances, and all our strivings and sorrows only vain beatings against the wires of our cage, cries of· Why hast thou made me, then ?' which are addressed to nothing ? Tell us not that the world is governed by universal law; the news is not comfortable, but simply horrible, unless you can tell us, or allow others to tell us, that there is a
loving giver, and a just administrator of that law.
Horrible, I say, and increasingly horrible, not merely to the sentimentalist, but to the man of sound reason and of sound conscience, must the scientific aspect of nature become, if a mere abstraction called law is to be the sole ruler of the universe ; if- to quote the famous words of the German sage—If, instead of the * Divine Eye, there must glare on us an empty, - black, bottomless eye-socket;' and the stars and galaxies of heaven, in spite of all their present seeming regularity, are but an "everlasting storm which no man guides.'
It was but a few days ago that we, and this little planet on which we live, caught a strange and startling glimpse of that everlasting storm which–shall I say it ?—no one guides.
We were swept helpless, astronomers tell us, through a cloud of fiery stones, to which all the cunning bolts which man invents to slay his fellow-man, are but slow and weak engines of destruction.
We were free from the superstitious terror
with which that meteor-shower would have been regarded in old times. We could comfort ourselves, too, with the fact that heaven's artillery was not known as yet to have killed any one; and with the scientific explanation of that fact, namely, that most of the bolts were small enough to be melted and dissipated by their rush through our atmosphere.
But did the thought occur to none of us, how morally ghastly, in spite of all its physical beauty, was that grand sight, unless we were sure that behind it all, there was a living God? Unless we believed that not one of those bolts fell, or did not fall to the ground without our Father ? That he had appointed the path, and the time, and the destiny, and the use of every atom of that matter, of which science could only tell us that it was rushing without a purpose, for ever through the homeless void ?
We may believe that, mind, without denying scientific laws, or their permanence in any way. It is not a question, this, of a living God, whether he interferes with his own laws now and then, but whether interference is not the law