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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/272

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

worth while to destroy anything, finds both destruction and construction alike childish under the tottering of the very pillars of life—than the phenomena of an earthquake. Amid the moral shocks which the collapse of the very earth itself produces, only a faith which has profoundly convinced itself that the physical frame of things is a mere scaffolding, by the lines of which the spiritual dwelling of man has been fashioned, remains at all. Positivism itself, with its hierarchy of the sciences, all of them resting on the material life as the substratum of everything, would obviously disappear in a moment along with the menace to that physical foundation on which it bases its whole system.

It is curious to think what such races as the Teutonic would become under the influence of frequent earthquakes. Their "solidity" of character, as it is called, largely consists in the confidence they feel in the sameness of all Nature's ways; and whether it would survive that confidence, and outlive the constancy on which it was nourished, is very doubtful. An English squire, for instance, whose timber and crops had changed places with the timber and estates of his next neighbor, would certainly not be recognizably an English squire much longer. An English merchant, whose stock of satins or teas had vanished under the establishment of his rival, would find the world so very much out of joint that he himself would probably become an unmeaning phenomenon. It is, indeed, clear that even rare periodical attacks of earthquake would render the existence of a great capital impossible, and the character of an agricultural population quite different, and probably much more capricious than before. And not unreasonably so. Spiritual faith, even if it remain, can not well rule the actions of physical beings in a physical world which has lost all aspects of constancy. Indeed, repeated shocks to the physical basis of things, though they may well test the strength of faith, can not of course be often repeated on this earth of ours without transferring all the characteristic operativeness of faith to a world of another kind. Faith is faith in divine constancy; and the constancy which has ceased to govern our bodies must be discoverable in some other region, not that of our bodies, if faith is to be of use. Morally, then, the only use of earthquakes must be to test the growth of a spiritual faith in a world and life beyond the reach of earthquakes. Clearly it can not strengthen or educate such a faith. It can only sift the false faith from the true, and accord to the true its triumph.—Spectator.