Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/16

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

highest moral virtue and reaches heroism. Now, all this is true; it is a part of our natural knowledge. But it is not vicarious sacrifice; it is not sacrifice at all in the true sense. It is the order of the succession of life in Nature. The living present is always reared upon the dead past. Not only men, but races and nations—

"May rise by stepping-stones of their dead selves
To higher things."

The six noble citizens of Calais who surrendered themselves to the vengeance of the English king were offering themselves as a vicarious sacrifice. They were willing to die, that their fellows might live; but this act bears no resemblance to the order of Nature above alluded to, and from which the great preacher drew his illustration. It rises to a region of which unconscious Nature knows nothing—the region of heroism. But neither fact nor set of facts contains any hint that can lead to a rational explanation of how the death of Christ benefited mankind other than in the way the death of every hero benefits us. This is an esoteric, mysterious doctrine upon which no light can be thrown by an appeal to any known fact or law of the visible universe.

The eloquent preacher tries to help out his analogy by an original conception of Sin as "a single world-spirit, exactly as electricity, with which the universe is charged, is indivisible, imponderable, one, so that you can not separate it from the great ocean of fluid. The electric spark that slumbers in the dew-drop is part of the flood which struck the oak. Had that spark not been there, it could be demonstrated that the whole previous constitution of the universe might have been different and the oak not have been struck." Every separate act of sin is the manifestation of an original principle as broad and universal as this—the world-spirit, the spirit of evil. Grant this, and still the connection can not be made. Grant that this world-spirit slew all the prophets, opposes the good in every age, and crucified "the Just One" himself, as, of course, it did and does, how did the death of Christ modify or conquer or remove this spirit, or shield man from the supposed wrath of his Creator, in any other way than the death of every just person for a worthy cause accomplishes these ends? These aTc mysteries that can not be explained, or the explanation even hinted at. The human faculties of reason and insight can never fathom them. Dying that others may live is truly the order of this universe, its natural order. But what examples history affords of its having been in so many instances the conscious human order the order which makes heroes! Even in our selfish and materialistic age, as it is called, not a year passes but our pulse is quickened by the recital of some act of heroism during some disaster upon the sea or in the mines or in burning cities, wherein men have calmly faced death that others might have a chance to live. But there is no analogy here to the popular theory of the sufferings and death of Christ. All men