Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/533

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

schools were heard bidding against one another for adherents. This condition of affairs was cleverly brought home to readers by "The New Republic," Mr. Mallock's first work, appearing in 1878. To minds distracted by the hubbub of opinion, and despairing of certainty elsewhere, the only sure refuge again appeared to lie in the Church of Rome, and this, as the only alternative for the gospel of Positivism, was offered in the book entitled "Is Life worth Living?" which was published in 1879. "The Romance of the Nineteenth Century" appeared two years afterward. Such a temporary depression of tone was a natural result of the conflict through which the age had been passing.

But other and more important results followed. It is unequivocally recognized, by most writers of eminence, that Christianity can no longer look to its supernatural elements for support—nay, more, that the excellence of some parts of its morality can not even receive credence for their inferential elements; at least they have to be definitely discarded as a necessary part of faith, if Christianity intends to bid for the allegiance of the intellectual portion of mankind. It is therefore ridiculously wide of the truth to boast, as the clerical mind is inclined to do, that Christianity has weathered the storm, that she will pass into the twentieth century unaltered in essentials. This is fully recognized by the author of "Natural Religion." "The Church," he writes, "has now entered upon that phase when minds of the higher order are seldom found to receive its ancient dogmas with complete conviction, when they do not altogether belong to it, even when they most admire it, and most appreciate the service it has rendered to mankind. It has reached this rather advanced stage of decline, and has left quite behind it the first stage when individual disbelievers were indeed numerous enough, but still minds disposed to religion, even when they were minds of the highest order, were troubled with no skepticism that they could not overcome." The fact is, that the Church does not pretend to be the interpreter of human society, to open to us the vista of the future, or to give us guidance upon matters of contemporary importance. "We know," writes our author, "that for the most part it is occupied with quite other topics. To most of its utterances the world listens in half-contemptuous silence, feeling that it is useless to controvert the propositions laid down, and that no results would follow from admitting them. The propositions are archaic; they show that the Church once understood its function, and discharged it efficiently."

The natural result has been, that its authority has been quietly disregarded by all branches of investigation. Before 1873 and 1874, hostility to orthodox Christianity was more or less openly shown by the chief writers of science, history, art, morals, etc., but since these years this tone has been generally abandoned for one of supreme indifference, or of perfect fairness. The tone of the "Fortnightly Review,"