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mental suffering. “What is horrible?" I asked. “Why, that doctrine you have been all talking about—the survival of the strongest. It may be that it is the law of nature that the weak should be trampled out by the strong, but it is dreadful.” Her eyes were filled with tears. I answered, “I believe in no such doctrine as the survival of the strongest,—nor do those scientific men believe in it. They believe in the survival of the fittest; but mere strength is not fitness. The survival of the strongest were indeed a horrible doctrine ; but all nature is against it. Huge monstrous things that were only strong-moving mountains of force, mammoth and megalosaurus—have perished because they were merely strong, and so not fit to survive ; the forms of cruelty and brute force have had to give way before things much weaker; the lions have decreased before the lambs; and man, weakest of all animals at birth, has been awarded the sceptre of the world because he was fittest through his power to love, to consider, to deny himself for others."
I had the happiness of witnessing the relief of that young heart when she discovered her mistake,—that the horrible doctrine of the reign of brute force has been especially crushed by that of evolution, which proves the steady triumph of the gentle forces of sympathy and justice. How much misunderstanding of this kind envelopes all great truths when they first ascend the horizon, so that human hearts tremble like the watching shepherds when they saw their star. “ The glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.” 'Tis an old poem, but ever repeated.
It is the very evangel of our time that knowledge is shadowing out the moral essence of the world. It has shown mere physical power steadily decreasing, and the power of thought and love increasing, and it has thus discovered for the humane a new basis for their hope, a new spur for their effort. Ferocity is a weakness; fanaticism is feebleness; selfishness is suicidal: Turkey feels it; Spain feels it; Rome is learning it. Love, Justice, Knowledge, lead the world, and human hearts may now sing unto their Lord a new song !
A new song ! and yet that which is now a matter of knowledge was of old felt out by the intuition and faith of great hearts. It was felt out by Christ, who estimated things by their sentiment—by their spirit—and not by their outward size and seeming strength. He anticipated the whole story of moral evolution. To the lowly, he said, is given the kingdom of heaven; humility shall inherit the earth. He had faith that ideas could level the loftiest temples stone by stone, and perfect faith move mountains. He could see a vast property in a widow's mite, and emptiness in the costliest offering. He valued the sympathy of a woman whom others scorned more than the gifts of the proud. A cup of cold water given for truth's sake carried with it a divine virtue. He looked not to the thing done, whether it were large or little, but to the heart and worth put into it : nothing could be large that had no soul in it, nothing could be small which had in it one
spark of love and truth. Is there no philosophy in all this? Why modern knowledge has almost abolished distinctions of great and small. It reads one law in the rounding of a world or a tear; it sees in the smallest improvement of plant or animal the essence of a kingdom. It discovers the power of leasts.
It recalls us to consider the sages who did not hesitate to match their heart against the thrones of wrong and error, because they sought no ends of their own, but simply the ends of truth and right. None of those sages, none of their ages, stood in the presence of greater causes and truths than those amid which we now stand. There are phantasms of religious terror to be cleared away ; there is knowledge that can save millions from disease and pain to be spread abroad ; there are prejudices which dwarf little children by false training and instructions in error ; there are others which make it almost impossible for women to train themselves for service to the world, or to enter upon any useful career. Talents are hid in ignorance, buried under prejudice. Very few are allowed to devote their gift to the task which needs them, as they need it. Fashion is denying thousands the work they would love, and uniting them to that they love not.
What can we do amid all these great moral necessities? So far as visible force is concerned it is perhaps but a widow's mite we can give, a cup of water, a little ointment; it may be we can bring no alabaster-box, but only the tear of sympathy to the sacred cause. Little are these in themselves, but what mean they? Whence have they come? Who can tell us how far has come, and out of what depth, the humblest meed of sympathy or aid to a cause rejected of men? Out of what patience, and thought, after what temptations resisted! When all the world is smiting the unpopular cause, what is implied if one approaches with hand extended not to smite but to clasp and bless ? Out of all, that one hand alone represents the divine life and purpose of nature ; that one alone acts for no selfish end, is guided by no low interest; bribed by no mean desire, not terrified by public odium, that heart which brings its love and devotion to the true and right has brought with it the might of every law – the forces of destiny.
When Dr. Johnson was once loudly defending some strange principle of his against a company of gainsayers, all opposed him it seemed, -one man present alone said to him, “I believe you are right !" The man who said that was John Wesley. Johnson lowered his voice and said, “ To have convinced such a man as you is all I can desire.” With the one best man on his side Johnson felt he was in the majority.
That is not weak which has won the faith of the wise, and the love of the pure in heart : though the wise be few and poor, and the lovers able to give but a cup of cold water, yet the cause so supported is not weak : its star is in the East, its day will not recede, it moves with steadfast planets in their courses.
The whole tendency and evolution of the world has been to the end of unfolding in man a power to overcome all the selfishness of brute nature. Through ages, by self-seeking the animal has been formed; but now by self-denial the animal reaches a new birth. The impulse to love that which can give no recompense to the lower nature; the power to serve with unwearied devotion the true and right; these are the last and highest forces evolved from nature. They are the first signs of human freedom. For no man is free who is morally fettered by his interests, his fears, or his prejudices. He is a slave to the world. A man is free only when he is able to go against his interests, his fears, and his prejudices. “He is free whom the truth makes free”-the man whom nothing can swerve from that.
Religion—which should be an expression of this consummate force in nature—the power that frees man from low motives and makes his action flow straight from reason and conscience,-must itself be born again. That which is commonly called religion is not the loving service, but servility under threat and bribe,and these the coarsest. So far the conventional religion is irreligious. There is a healthy fear—the fear of doing wrong. There is a noble hope—the hope that rectitude will bring benefit to all. But that is a base fear, a mean hope, which look merely to personal consequences of animal pain and pleasure. How wild is the unreason