Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/137

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137
EDITOR'S TABLE.

not be equally absurd for him to call himself a believer," or a " doubter," or an "opiner"? Surely he is all three, each in its turn ; and, whether in be- lieving, or in doubting, or in opining, he 13 equally maintaining his intellectual integrity. Taking this view of the mat- ter, we have not hitherto been able to regard the "agnostic" position as very well or happily chosen by many, at least, of those who profess to hold it. We think, for example, that " agnostic" is a poor name for such a man as Prof. Huxley to be known by. Prof. Huxley is a man of a decidedly positive and constructive cast of mind, a man eager to affirm all the truths that he can es- tablish. If he makes a stand for any- thing, it is for intellectual integrity. To him it is a crime to believe without evi- dence, or to disbelieve in spite of evi- dence. In this respect he is entirely at one with the excellent Nicole, whose words we have quoted. Why should a man of this kind be separated by any badge or party nickname from the com- munity at large ? His one great interest is the truth, and what nobler interest can any man have ? Or, again, what profounder basis of sympathy and union can any two men, or any body of men, have, than a common and ardent love of the truth ? Mere outward agreement in opinion counts for little, unless there is sincerity at the back of it. It is im- possible, at least for any enlightened man, to derive satisfaction from the support of those who, he knows, have no interest in the truth, and who are prepared to defend the opinions they have embraced by all kinds of party strategy.

The highest profession any naan can make is a profession of intellectual integ- rity ; and to us it seems to be sufficient for aU purposes. It is one which a man can summon others to share. It be^ conies at once the basis of a true apos- tolate. "Believe what you may," cries the true modern thinker, "disbelieve what you may, only make it a sacred principle that your beliefs shall be honest, and shall be advocated and defended by honest arguments and none other." It may seem to some that this is an appeal easily made, a programme easily real- ized. Possibly, but it demands this: tbat underneath every opinion and be- lief shall be a fundamental sense, ac- quiring gradually the force of an instinct, that the ultimate object of loyalty and devotion is the truth. Truth, if we may so express it, must own the soil of the mind, and opinions and beliefs must be merely tenants occupying according to the terms of their several leases. Loyal- ty to an opinion is a misleading phrase, and one that ought to be banished from the vocabulary of honest men. The only true and worthy loyalty is to that which alone can vitalize any opinion — namely, the truth.

If it be objected that there is no con- venient name by which the brotherhood of truth-lovers could be known, we an- swer that the objection seems to us of trifling importance. The great thing is that a man should be a truth-lover, not that he should have any special appella- tion. The Christians " were first called Christians at Antioch"; and St. Paul founded churches without, apparently, using or recognizing the name, which is not once mentioned in his epistles. The " Methodists " of the last century took a name that was applied to them mainly in derision by their opponents, and one which certainly did not bind them to any set of opinions. Let a man profess and, still better, let him practice honesty in all his beliefs, and let the world dub him as it may. He will then be pre- pared to say, when duly questioned, what those things are which, following the pious Nicole, he finds it a duty to believe, the evidence being what it is; what those things are which to his honest apprehension are doubtful; and what those in regard to which he is moved by a greater probability to en- tertain an opinion. The things that he disbelieves he wUl also with equal frank-