THE Reign of Law-is this, then, the reign under which we live? Yes, in a sense it is. There is no denying it. The whole world around us, and the whole world within us, are ruled by Law. Our very spirits are subject to it — those spirits which yet seem so spiritual, so subtle, so free. How often in the darkness do they feel the restraining walls — bounds within which they move — conditions out of which they cannot think! The perception of this is growing in the consciousness of men. It grows with the growth of knowledge; it is the delight, the reward, the goal of Science. From Science it passes into every domain of thought, and invades, amongst others, the Theology of the Church. And so we see the men of Theology coming out to parley with the men of Science, — a white flag in their [53/54] hands, and saying, — If you will let us alone, we will do the same by you. Keep to your own province; do not enter ours. The reign of Law which you proclaim, we admit — outside these walls, but not within them. — let there be peace between us." But this will never do. There can be no such treaty dividing the domain of Truth. Every one Truth is connected with every other Truth in this great Universe of God. The connexion may be one of infinite subtlety, and apparent distance — running, as it were, underground for a long way, but always asserting itself at last, somewhere, and at some time. No bargaining, no fencing off the ground — no form of process, will avail to bar this right of way. Blessed right, enforced by blessed power! Every truth, which is truth indeed, is charged with its own consequences, its own analogies, its own suggestions. These will not be kept outside any artificial boundary; they will range over the whole Field of Thought, nor is there any corner of it from which they can be warned away.
And therefore we must cast a sharp eye indeed on every form of words which professes to [54/55] represent a scientific truth. If it be really true in one department of thought, the chances are that it will have its bearing on every other. And if it be not true, but erroneous, its effect will be of a corresponding character; for there is a brotherhood of Error as close as the brotherhood of Truth. Therefore, to accept as a truth that which is not a truth, or to fail in distinguishing the sense in which a proposition may be true, from other senses in which it is not true, is an evil having consequences which are indeed incalculable. There are subjects on which one mistake of this kind will poison all the wells of truth, and affect with fatal error the whole circle of our thoughts.
It is against this danger that some men would erect a feeble barrier by defending the position, that Science and Religion may be, and ought to be, kept entirely separate; — that they belong to wholly different spheres of thought, and that the ideas which prevail in the one province have no relation to those which prevail in the other. This is a doctrine offering many temptations to many minds. It is grateful to scientific men who are afraid of being thought hostile to Religion. It is [55/56] grateful to religious men who are afraid of being thought to be afraid of Science. To these, and to all who are troubled to reconcile what they have been taught to believe with what they have come to know, this doctrine affords a natural and convenient escape. There is but one objection to it — but that is the fatal objection — that it is not true. The spiritual world and the intellectual world are not separated after this fashion: and the notion that they are so separated does but encourage men to accept in each, ideas which will at last be found to be false in both. The truth is, that there is no branch of human inquiry, however purely physical, which is more than the word"branch" implies; none which is not connected through endless ramifications with every other, — and especially with that which is the root and centre of them all. If He who formed the mind be one with Him who is the Orderer of all things concerning which that mind is occupied, there can be no end to the points of contact between our different conceptions of them, of Him, and of ourselves.
The instinct which impels us to seek for harmony [56/57] in the truths of < Science and the truths of Religion, is a higher instinct and a truer one than the disposition which leads us to evade the difficulty by pretending that there is no relation between them. For, after all, it is a pretence and nothing more. No man who thoroughly accepts a principle in the philosophy of Nature which he feels to be inconsistent with a doctrine of Religion, can help having his belief in that doctrine shaken and undermined. We may believe, and we must believe, both in Nature and in Religion, many things which we cannot understand; but we cannot really believe two propositions which are felt to be contradictory. It helps us nothing in such a difficulty, to say that the one proposition belongs to Reason and the other proposition belongs to Faith. The endeavour to reconcile them is a necessity of the mind. We are right in thinking that if they are both indeed true they can be reconciled, and if they really are fundamentally opposed they cannot both be true. That is to say, there must be some error in our manner of conception in one or in the other, or in both. At the very best, each can represent only some partial and imperfect [57/58] aspect of the truth. The error may lie in our Theology, or it may lie in what we are pleased to call our Science. It may be that some dogma, derived by tradition from our fathers, is having its hollowness betrayed by that light which sometimes shines upon the ways of God out of a better knowledge of His works. It may be that some proud and rash generalisation of the schools is having its falsehood proved by the violence it does to the deepest instincts of our spiritual nature, — to
"Truths which wake to perish never!
Which neither man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy."1
Such, for example, is the conclusion to which the language of some scientific men is evidently pointing, that great general Laws inexorable in their operation, and Causes in endless chain of invariable sequence, are the governing powers in Nature, and that they leave no room for any special direction or providential ordering of events. If this be true, it is vain to deny its bearing on Religion. (What, then. can be the use of prayer? [58/59] Can Laws hear us? Can they change, or can they suspend themselves? These questions cannot but arise, and they require an answer. It is said of a late eminent Professor and clergyman of the English Church, who was deeply imbued with these opinions on the place occupied by Law in the economy of Nature, that he went on, nevertheless, preaching high doctrinal sermons from the pulpit until his death. He did so on the ground that propositions which were contrary to his reason were not necessarily beyond his faith. The inconsistencies of the human mind are indeed unfathomable; and there are men so constituted as honestly to suppose that they can divide themselves into two spiritual beings, one of whom is sceptical, and the other is believing. But such men are rare — happily for Religion, and not less happily for Science. No healthy intellect, no earnest spirit, can rest in such self — betrayal. Accordingly we find many men now facing the consequences to which they have given their intellectual assent, and taking their stand upon the ground that prayer to God has no other value or effect than so far as it may be a good way of preaching to [59/60] ourselves. It is a useful and helpful exercise for our own spirits, but it is nothing more. But how can they pray who have come to this? Can it ever be useful or helpful to believe a lie? That which has been threatened as the worst of all spiritual evils, would then become the conscious attitude of our"religion," the habitual condition of our worship. This must be as bad science, as it is bad religion. It is in violation of a Law the highest known to Man — the Law which inseparably connects earnest conviction of the truth in what we do or say, with the very fountains of all intellectual and moral strength. No accession of force can come to us from doing anything in which we disbelieve. Such a doctrine will be indeed
"The little rift within the lute
That by and by will make the music mute,
And ever widening slowly silence all:'2
If there is any helpfulness in Prayer even to the Mind itself, that helpfulness can only be preserved by showing that the belief on which this virtue depends is a rational belief. The very essence of [60/61] that belief is this — that the Divine Mind is accessible to supplication, and that the Divine Will is capable of being moved thereby. No question is, or indeed can be, raised as to the powerful effect exerted by this belief on Man's nature. That effect is recognised as a fact. Its value is admitted; and in order that it may not be lost, the compromise now offered by some philosophers is this — that although the course of external nature is unalterable, yet possibly the phenomena of Mind and character may be changed by the Divine Agency. But will this reasoning bear analysis? Can the distinction it assumes be maintained? Whatever difficulties there may be in reconciling the ideas of Law and of Volition, are difficulties which apply equally to the Worlds of Matter and of Mind. The Mind is as much subject to Law as the Body is, The Reign of Law is over all and if its dominion be really incompatible with the agency of Volition, Human or Divine, then the Mind is as inaccessible to that agency as material things. It would indeed be absurd to affirm that all Prayers are equally rational or equally legitimate. Most true it is that" we know not what we should pray [61/62] for as we ought." Prayer does not require us to believe that anything can be done without the use of means; neither does it require us to believe that anything will be done in violation of the Universal Order. "If it be possible," was the qualification used in the most solemn Prayer ever uttered upon Earth. What are and what are not legitimate objects of supplication, is a question which may well be open. But the question now raised is a wider one than this — even the question whether the very idea of Prayer be not in itself absurd — whether the — Reign of Law does not preclude the possibility of Will affecting the successive phenomena either of Matter or of Mind. This is a question lying at the root of our whole conceptions of the Universe, and of all our own powers, both of thinking and of acting. The freedom which is denied to God is not likely to be left to Man. We shall see, accordingly, that precisely the same denials are applied to both.
The conception of Natural Laws — of their place, of their nature, and of their office — which involves us in such questions, and which points to such [62/63] conclusions, demands surely a very careful examination at our hands.
What, then, is this Reign of Law? What is Law, and in what sense can it be said to reign?
Words, which should be the servants of Thought, are too often its masters; and there are very few words which are used more ambiguously, and therefore more injuriously, than the word "Law." It may, indeed be legitimately used in several different senses, because in all cases as applied in Science it is a metaphor, and one which has relation to many different kinds and degrees of likeness in the ideas which are compared. It matters little in which of these senses it is used, provided the distinctions between them are kept clearly in view, and provided we watch against the fallacies which must arise when we pass insensibly from one meaning to another. And here it may be observed, in passing, that the metaphors which are implied in Language are generally founded on analogies instinctively, and often unconsciously, perceived, and which would not be so perceived if they were not both deep and true. "In this case the idea which lies at the root [63/64] of Law in all its applications is evident enough. In its primary signification, a"law" is the authoritative expression of human Will enforced by Power. The instincts of mankind finding utterance in their language, have not failed to see that the phenomena of Nature are only really conceivable to us as in like manner the expressions of a Will enforcing itself with Power. But, as in many other cases, the secondary or derivative senses of the word have supplanted the primary signification; and Law is now habitually used by men who deny the analogy on which that use is founded, and to the truth of which it is an abiding witness. It becomes therefore all the more necessary to define the secondary senses with precision. There are at least Five different senses in which Law is habitually used, and these must be carefully distinguished
First, We have Law as applied simply to an observed Order of facts.
Secondly, To that Order as involving the action of some Force or Forces, of which nothing more may be known. [64/65]
Thirdly, As applied to individual Forces the measure of whose operation has been more or less defined or ascertained.
Fourthly, As applied to those combinations of Force which have reference to the fulfilment of Purpose, or the discharge of Function.
Fifthly, As applied to Abstract Conceptions of the mind — not. corresponding with any actual phenomena, but deduced therefrom as axioms of thought necessary to our understanding of them. Law, in this sense, is a reduction of the phenomena, not merely to an Order of facts, but to an Order of Thought.
These great leading significations of the word Law all circle round the three great questions which Science asks of Nature, the What, the How, and the Why
(1) What are the facts in their established Order?
(2) How — that is, from what physical causes, — does that Order come to be?
(3) Why have these causes been so combined? What relation do they bear to Purpose, to the fulfilment of Intention, to the discharge of Function?
It is so important that these different senses of [65/66] the word Law should be clearly distinguished that each of them must be more fully considered by itself.
The First and, so to speak, the lowest sense in which Law is applied to natural phenomena is that in which it is used to express simply"an observed Order of facts" — that is to say, facts which under the same conditions always follow each other in the same order. In this sense the laws of Nature are simply those facts of Nature which recur according to a rule. It is not necessary to the legitimate 'application of Law in this sense, that the cause of any observed Order of facts should be at all known, or even guessed at. The force or forces to which that Order is due may be hid in total darkness. It is sufficient that the Order or sequence of phenomena be uniform and constant. The neatest and simplest illustration of this, as well as of the other senses in which Law is used, is to be found in the exact sciences, and especially in the history of Astronomy. It is nearly 250 years since Kepler discovered, in respect to the distances, velocities, and orbits of the Planets, three [66/67] facts, or rather three series of facts, which, during many years 3 of intense application to physical inquiry, remained the highest truths known to Man on the phenomena of the Solar System. They were known as the Three Laws of Kepler. It is not necessary to describe in detail here what these laws were. Suffice it to say, that the most remarkable among them were facts of constant numerical relation between the distances of the different Planets from the Sun, and the length of their periodic times, and again, between the velocity of their motion and the space enclosed within certain corresponding sections of their orbit. These Laws were simply and purely an "Order of facts" established by observation, and not connected with any known cause. The Force of which that Order is a necessary result had not then been ascertained. A very large proportion of the laws of every science are laws of this kind and in this sense. For example, in Chemistry the behaviour of different substances towards [67/68] each other, in respect to combination and affinity, is reduced to system under laws of this kind, and of this kind only. Because, although there is a probability that Electric or Galvanic Force is the cause, or one of the causes, of the series of facts exhibited in chemical phenomena, this is as yet no better than a probability, and the laws of Chemistry stand no higher than facts which by observation and experiment are found to follow certain rules.
But the ascertainment of a law in this First and lower sense leads immediately and instinctively to the search after Law in another sense which is higher. An observed Order of facts, to be entitled to the rank of a Law, must be an Order so constant and uniform as to indicate necessity, and necessity can only arise out of the action of some compelling Force. Law, therefore, comes to indicate not merely an observed Order of facts, but that Order as involving the action of some Force or Forces, of which nothing more may be known than these visible effects. Every observed Order in physical phenomena suggests irresistibly [68/69] to the mind the operation of some physical cause. We say of an observed Order of facts that it must be due to some"law," meaning simply that all Order involves the idea of some arranging cause, the working of some Force or Forces, (whether they be such as we can further trace and define or not) of which that Order is the index and the result. This is the Second of the five senses specified above.
And so we pass on by an easy and natural transition to the Third sense in which the word Law is used. This is the most exact and definite of all. The mere general idea that some Force is at the bottom of all phenomena, which are invariably consecutive, is a very different thing from knowing what that Force is in respect to the rule or measure of its operation. Of Law in this sense the one great example, before and above all others, is the Law of Gravitation, for this is a law in the sense not merely of a rule, but of a cause — that is, of a Force accurately defined and ascertained according to the measure of its operation, from which Force other phenomena arise by way of necessary [69/70] consequence. Force is the root — idea of Law in its scientific sense. And so the Law of Gravitation is not merely the "observed Order" in which the heavenly bodies move; neither is it only the abstract. idea of some Force to which such movements must be due, but it is that Force the exact measure of whose operation was numerically ascertained or defined by Newton — the Force which compels those movements and (in a sense) explains them. Now the difference between Law in the narrower and Law in the larger sense cannot be better illustrated than in the difference between the Three special Laws discovered by Kepler, and the One universal Law discovered by Newton. The Three Laws of Kepler were, as we have seen, simply and purely an observed Order of facts. They stood by themselves — disconnected, — their cause unknown. The higher Law discovered by Newton revealed their connexion and their cause. The "observed Order" which Kepler had discovered was simply a necessary consequence of the Force of Gravitation. In the light of this great Law the"Three Laws of Kepler" have been merged and lost. [70/71] When the operations of any material Force can be reduced to rules so definite as those which have been discovered in respect to the Force of Gravitation, and when these rules are capable of mathematical expression and of mathematical proof, they are, so far as they go, in the nature of pure truth. Mr Lewes, in his very curious and interesting work on the Philosophy of Aristotle, has maintained that the knowledge of Measure — or what he calls the"verifiable element" in our knowledge — is the element which determines whether any theory belongs to Science, strictly so called, or to Metaphysics; and that any theory may be transferred from Metaphysics to Science, or from Science to Metaphysics, simply by the addition or withdrawal of its"verifiable element." In illustration of this, he says that if we withdraw, from the Law of Universal Attraction, the formula"inversely, as the square of the distance, and directly as the mass," it becomes pure Metaphysics. If this means that, apart from ascertained numerical relations, our conception of Law, or our knowledge of natural phenomena, loses all reality and distinctness, I do not agree in the position. The idea of natural [71/72] Forces is quite separate from any ascertained measure of their energy. The knowledge, for example, that all the particles of matter exert an attractive force upon each other, is, so far as it goes, true physical knowledge, even though we did not know the further truth that this force acts according to the numerical rule ascertained by Newton. To banish from physical Science, properly so called, and to relegate to Metaphysics all knowledge which cannot be reduced to numerical expression, is a dangerous abuse of language.
Force, ascertained according to some measure of its operation — this is indeed one of the definitions, but only one, of a scientific Law. The discovery of laws in this sense is the great quest of Science, and the finding of them is one of her great rewards. Such laws yield to the human mind a peculiar delight from the satisfaction they afford to those special faculties whose function it is to recognise the beauty of numerical relations. This satisfaction is so great, and in its own measure is so complete, that the mind reposes on an ascertained law of this kind as on an ultimate truth. And [72/73] ultimate it is as regards the particular faculties which are concerned in this kind of search. When we have observed our facts, and when we have summed up our figures, when we have recognised the constant numbers, then our eyes, our ears, and our calculating faculties have done their work. But other faculties are called into simultaneous operation, and these have other work to do. For let it be observed that laws, in the first three senses we have now examined, cannot be said to explain anything except the Order of subordinate phenomena. They set forth that order as due to Force. They do nothing more. Least of all do laws, in any of these three senses, explain themselves. They suggest a thousand questions much more curious than the questions which they solve. The very beauty and simplicity of some laws is their deepest mystery. What can their source be? How is their uniformity maintained? Every law implies a Force, and all that we ever know is some numerical rule or measure according to which some unknown Forces operate. But whence come those measures — those exact relations to number, which [73/74] never vary? Or, if there are variations, how comes it that these are always found to follow some other rules as exact and as invariable as the first?
And as there can be no better example of what Law is, so also there can be no better example of what it is not — than the Law of Gravitation. The discovery of it was probably the highest exercise of pure intellect through which the human mind has found its way. It is the most universal physical law which is known to us, for it prevails, apparently, through all Space. Yet of the Force of Gravitation all we know is, that it is a force of attraction operating between all the particles of matter in the exact measure which was ascertained by Newton, that is directly as the mass, and inversely as the square of the distance. This is the Law. But it affords no sort of explanation of itself What is the cause of this Force — what is its source — what are the media of its operation — how is the exact uniformity of its proportions maintained these are questions which it is impossible not to ask, but which it is quite as impossible to answer. Sir [74/75] John Herschel, in speaking of this Force, has indicated in a passing sentence a few questions out of the many which arise: "No matter," he says, from what ultimate causes the power called gravitation originates — be it a virtue lodged in the sun as its receptacle, or be it pressure from without, or the resultant of many pressures, or solicitations of unknown kinds, magnetic or electric, ethers or impulses," &c. &c.4 How little we have ascertained in this Law, after all! Yet there is an immense and an instinctive pleasure in the contemplation of it. To analyse this pleasure is as difficult as to analyse the pleasure which the eye takes in beauty of form, or the pleasure which the ear takes in the harmonies of sound. And this pleasure is inexhaustible, for these laws of number and proportion pervade all Nature, and the intellectual organs which have been fitted to the knowledge of them have eyes which are never satisfied with seeing, and ears which are never full of hearing. The agitation which overpowered Sir Isaac Newton as the Law of Gravitation was rising to his view in the light [75/76] of rigorous demonstration, was the homage rendered by the great faculties of his nature to a harmony which was as new as it was immense and wonderful. The same pleasure in its own degree is felt by every man of science who, in any branch of physical inquiry, traces and detects any lesser law. And it is perfectly true that such laws are being detected everywhere. Forces which are in their essence and their source utterly mysterious, are always being found to operate under rules which have strict reference to measures of number, to relations of Space and Time. The Forces which determine chemical combination all work under rules as sharp and definite as the Force of Gravitation. So do the Forces which operate in Light, and Heat, and Sound. So do those who exert their energies in Magnetism and Electricity. All the operations of Nature — the smallest and the greatest — are performed under similar measures and restraints. Not even a drop of water can be formed except under rules which determine its weight, its volume, and its shape, with exact reference to the density of the fluid, to the structure of the surface on which it [76/77] may be formed, and to the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. Then that pressure is itself exercised under rigorous rules again. Not one of the countless varieties of form which prevail in clouds, and which give to the face of heaven such infinite expression, not one of them but is ruled by Law — woven, or braided, or torn, or scattered, or gathered up again and folded,by Forces which are free only "within the bounds of Law."
And equally in those subjects of inquiry in which rules of number and of proportion are not applicable, rules are discernible which belong to another class, but which are as certain and as prevailing. All events, however casual or disconnected they may at first appear to be, are found in the course of time to arrange themselves in some certain Order, the index and exponent of Forces, of which we know nothing except their existence as evidenced in these effects. It is indeed wonderful to find that in such a matter, for example, as the development of our Human Speech, the unconscious changes which arise from time to time among the rudest utterances of the [77/78] rudest tribes and races of Mankind, are all found to follow rules of progress as regular as those which preside over any of the material growths of Nature. Yet so it is; and it is upon this fact alone that the science of Language rests — a science in which all the facts are not yet observed, and many of those which have been observed are not yet reduced to order; but in which enough has been ascertained to show that languages grow, and change from generation to generation according to rules of which the men who speak them are wholly unconscious. It is the same with all other wholly unconscious. It is the same with all other things. And as it is now, so apparently has it been in all past time of which we have any record. Even the work of Creation has been and is being carried on under rules of adherence to Typical Forms, and under limits of variation from them, which can be dimly seen and traced, although they cannot be defined or understood. The universal prevalence of laws of this kind cannot therefore be denied. The discovery of them is one of the first results of all physical inquiry. In this sense it is true that we, and the world around us, are under the Reign of Law. [78/79]
It is true, but only a bit and fragment of the truth. For there is another fact quite as prominent as the universal presence and prevalence of laws — and that is, the number of them which are concerned in each single operation in Nature. No one Law — that is to say, no one Force — determines anything that we see happening or done around us. It is always the result of different and opposing Forces nicely balanced against each other. The least disturbance of the proportion in which any one of them is allowed to tell, produces a total change in the effect. The more we know of Nature, the more intricate do such combinations appear to be. They can be traced very near to the fountains of Life itself, even close up to the confines of the last secret of all — how the Will acts upon its organs in the Body. Recent investigations in Physiology seem to favour the hypothesis that our muscles are the seat of two opposing Forces, each so adjusted as to counteract the other; and that this antagonism is itself so arranged as to enable us by acting on one of these Forces, to regulate the action of the other. One Force — an elastic or contractile Force — is supposed to be inherent in the [79/80] muscular fibre: another Force — that of Animal Electricity in statical condition — holds the contractile Force in check; and the relaxed, or rather the restful, condition of the muscle when not in use, is due to the balance so maintained. When, through the motor nerves the Will orders the muscles into action, that order is enforced by a discharge of the Electrical Force, and upon this discharge the contractile Force is set free to act, and does accordingly produce the contraction which is desired*
Such is, at least, one suggestion as to the means employed to place human action under the control of human Will, in that material frame which is so wonderfully and fearfully made. And whether this hypothesis be accurate or not, it is certain that some such adjustment of Force to Mechanism is involved in every bodily movement which is subject to the Will. Even in this high region, therefore, we see that the existence of individual laws is not the end of our physical
This theory of muscular and nervous action is set forth with much ingenuity and force of illustration in" Lectures on Epilepsy, &c., by Ch. Bland Radcliffe, M.D. " [80/81] knowledge. What we always reach at last in the course of every physical inquiry, is the recognition, not of individual laws, but of some definite relation to each other, in which different laws are placed, so as to bring about a particular result. But this is, in other words, the principle of Adjustment, and adjustment has no meaning except as the instrument and the result of Purpose. Force so combined with Force as to produce certain definite and orderly results, — this is the ultimate fact of all discovery.
And so we come upon another sense — the Fourth sense, in which Law is habitually used in Science, and this is perhaps the commonest and most important of all. It is used to designate not merely an observed Order of facts — not merely the bare abstract idea of Force — not merely individual Forces according to ascertained measures of operation — but a number of Forces in the condition of mutual adjustment, that is to say, as combined with each other, and fitted to each other for the attainment of special ends. The whole science of Mechanics, for example, deals with Law in this sense — with natural Forces as [81/82] related to Purpose and subservient to the discharge of Function. And this is the highest sense of all — Law in this sense being more perfectly intelligible to us than in any other because although we know nothing of the real nature of Force, even of that Force which is resident in ourselves, we do know for what ends we exert it, and the principle that governs our devices for its use. That principle is — Combination for the accomplishment of Purpose.
Accordingly it is when natural phenomena can be reduced to Law in this last sense, that we reach something which alone is really in the nature of an explanation. For what do we mean by an explanation? It is an unfolding or a" making plain." But as the human mind has many faculties, so each of these seeks a satisfaction of its own. That which is made plain to one faculty is not necessarily made plain to another. That which is a complete answer to the question What, or to the question How, is no answer at all to the question Why. There are some philosophers who tell us that this last is a question which had better never be asked, because it is one to which Nature [82/83] gives no reply. If this be so, it is strange that Nature should have given us the faculties which impel us to ask this question — — ay, and to ask it more eagerly than any other. It is indeed true that there is a point beyond which we need not ask it, because the answer is inaccessible. But this is equally true of the questions What, and How. We cannot reach Final Causes any more than Final Purposes. For every cause which we can detect, there is another cause which lies behind: and for every purpose which we can see, there are other purposes which lie beyond.
And so it is true that all things in Nature may either be regarded as means or as ends — for they are always both — only that Final Ends we can never see. For, as Bishop Butler truly says in his Analogy,5 We know what we ourselves aim at as final ends, and what courses we take merely as means conducing to these ends. But we are greatly ignorant how far things are considered by the Author of Nature under the simple notion of means and ends, — so as that it may be said this is merely an end, and that merely means, in His [83/84] regard. And whether there be not some peculiar absurdity in our very manner of conception concerning this matter, somewhat contradictory, arising from an extremely imperfect view of things, it is impossible to say." This is indeed a wise caution, and one which has been much needed to check the abuse of that method of reasoning which has been called the doctrine of Final Causes. When man makes an Implement he knows the purpose for which he makes it — he knows the function assigned to it in his own intention. But as in making it there are a thousand chips and fragments of material Which he casts aside, so in its final use it often produces consequences and results which he did not contemplate or foresee. But in Nature — all this is different. Nature has no chips or fragments which she does not put to use; and as on the way to her apparent ends there are no incidents which she did not foresee, so beyond those ends there are no ulterior results which do not open out into new firmaments of Design. Of nothing, therefore, can we say with even the probability of truth that we see its Final Cause, that is to say, its ultimate purpose. All that eve can [84/85] ever see are the facts of Adjustment and of Function, and these constitute not Final, but Immediate Purpose. But a purpose is not less a purpose, because other purposes may lie beyond it. And not only can we detect Purpose in natural phenomena, but, as we have already seen, it is very often the only thing about them which is intelligible to us. The How is very often incomprehensible, where the Why is apparent at a glance. And be this observed, that when Purpose is perceived, it is a" making plain" to a higher faculty of the mind than the mere sense of Order. It is a making plain to Reason. It is the reduction of phenomena to that Order of Thought which is the basis of all other Order in the works of Man, and which, he instinctively concludes, is the basis also of all Order in the works of Nature.
And here it is important to observe, that although this general conclusion, like all other general conclusions, belongs to the category of mental inferences, and not to the category of physical facts, yet each particular instance of Purpose on which the general inference is founded, is not an inference merely, but a fact. The Function of [85/86] an organ, for example, is a matter of purely physical investigation. But the Function of an organ is not merely that which it does, but it is that which its construction enables it to do. It is, not merely its work, but it is the work assigned to it as an Apparatus, and as fitted to other organs having other functions related to its own. The very idea of Function is therefore inseparable from the idea of Purpose. The Function of an organ is its Purpose: and the relation of its parts, and of the whole to that Purpose, is as much and as definitely a scientific fact as the relation of any other phenomenon to Space, or Time, or Number.
This distinction between Purpose as a general inference and Purpose as a particular fact, has not been sufficiently observed. The just condemnation pronounced by Bacon on the pursuit of Final Causes as distorting the true Method of Physical Investigation, has been applied without discrimination to two very different conceptions. Even Philosophers who believe in the Supremacy of Purpose in Nature have been willing to banish this conception from the Domain of Science, and to classify it as belonging altogether [86/87] to Metaphysics or Theology. Thus in the very able Harveian Oration for 1865 by Dr H. W. Ackland, he says — " Whether there be any Purpose, is the object of Theological and Metaphysical, but not of Physical inquiry.' And again,"The evidence of intention is metaphysical, and depends on probabilities. It is not positive. It is inferential from many considerations."6 I venture to dissent from these conclusions. Even as a general doctrine, the doctrine of Contrivance and Adjustment is not so metaphysical as the Doctrine of Homologies; and when we come to particular cases there can be no question whatever that the relation of a given Structure to its Purpose and Function comes more unequivocally under the class of physical facts than the relation of that same Structure to some corresponding part in another animal. It is less ideal, for example, — less theoretical — less metaphysical — to assert of the little hooked claw which is attached to the (apparent) elbow of a Bat's wing, that it was placed there to enable the Bat to climb and crawl, than to affirm of that same claw that it is the homologue of the human [87/88] thumb. Yet who can deny that this doctrine of Homologies has been established as a strictly scientific truth? There is a sense, of course, in which all Knowledge and all Science belongs to Metaphysics. Mere classification, which is the basis of all Science, what is it but the marshalling of physical facts in an Ideal Order — an arrangement of them according to the relation which they bear to the laws of Thought? But this does not constitute as a branch of Metaphysics, the division of animals into Genera, and Families, and Orders. And what relation can physical facts ever have to Thought so directly cognisable or so susceptible of Demonstration as the relation of an animal organ to its purpose and function in the animal economy? Whether Purpose be the basis of all natural Order or not is a separate question. It is at least one of the facts of that Order. Combination for the accomplishment of Purpose therefore in particular cases, such as the relation between the structure of an Organ and its function, is not merely a safe conclusion of Philosophy, but an ascertained fact of Science.
The universal prevalence of this, idea in Nature [88/89] is indicated by the irresistible tendency which we observe in the language of Science to personify the Forces, and the combinations of Force by which all natural phenomena are produced. It is a great injustice to scientific men — too often committed — to suspect them of unwillingness to accept the idea of a Personal Creator merely because they try to keep separate the language of Science from the language of Theology.' But it is curious to
xxx A remarkable instance of this injustice has been lately brought to light. Professor Huxley, in an article in the Fortnightly Review , had used one of those vague phrases, so common with scientific men, about the"unknown and the unknowable" being the goal of all scientific thought, which not unnaturally suggest the notion that all idea of a God is unattainable. A writer in the Spectator accordingly dealt with Professor Huxley as avowing Atheism, and was rebuked by the Professor in a letter published in the Spectator of Feb. 10, 1866. Professor Huxley says,"I do not know that I care very much about popular odium, so that there is no great merit in saying that if I really saw fit to deny the existence of a God I should certainly do so, for the sake of my own intellectual freedom, and be the honest Atheist you are pleased to say I am. As it happens, however, I cannot take this position with honesty, inasmuch as it is, and always has been, a favourite tenet of mine, that Atheism is as absurd, logically speaking, as Polytheism." On the subject of miracles, in the same letter, Professor Huxley says, that"denying the possibility of miracles seems to me quite as unjustifiable as speculative Atheism." The question of miracles seems now to be admitted on all hands to be simply a question of evidence. [89/90] observe how this endeavour constantly breaks down — how impossible it is in describing physical phenomena to avoid the phraseology which identifies them with the phenomena of Mind, and is moulded on our own conscious Personality and Will. It is impossible to avoid this language simply because no other language conveys the impression which innumerable structures leave upon the mind. Take, for example, the word "contrivance." How could Science do without it? How could the great subject of Animal Mechanics be dealt with scientifically without continual reference to Law as that by which, and through which, special organs are formed for the doing of special work? What is the very definition of a machine? Machines do not increase Force, they only adjust it. The very idea and essence of a machine is that it is a contrivance for the distribution of Force with a view to its bearing on special purposes. A man's arm is a machine in which the law of leverage is supplied to the vital force for the purposes of prehension. We shall see presently that a bird's wing is a machine in which the same law is applied, under the most, [90/91] complicated conditions, for the purposes of flight. Anatomy supplies an infinite number of similar examples. It is impossible to describe or explain the facts we meet with in this or in any other branch of Science without investing the "laws" of Nature with something of that Personality which they do actually reflect, or without conceiving of them as partaking of those attributes of Mind which we everywhere recognise in their working and results.
We may, again, take the Forces which determine the Planetary motions as the grandest and the simplest illustrations of this truth of Science. Gravitation, as already said, is a Force which prevails apparently through all Space. But it does not prevail alone. It is a Force whose function it is to balance other Forces, of which we know nothing, except this, — that these, again, are needed to balance the Force of Gravitation. Each Force, if left to itself, would be destructive of the Universe. Were it not for the Force of Gravitation, the centrifugal Forces which impel the Planets would fling them off into Space. Were it n, — )t for these centrifugal Forces, the Force of Gravitation  would dash them against the Sun. The orbits, therefore, of the Planets, with all that depends upon them, are determined by the nice and perfect balance which is maintained between these two Forces; and the ultimate fact of astronomical science is not the Law of Gravitation, but the adjustment between this law and others which are less known, so as to produce and maintain the existing Solar System.
This is one example of the principle of Adjustment; but no one example, however grand the scale may be on which it is exhibited, can give any idea of the extent to which the principle of Adjustment is required, and is adopted in the works of Nature. The revolution of the seasons, for example — seedtime and harvest — depend on the Law of Gravitation in this sense, that if that law were disturbed, or if it were inconstant, they would be disturbed and inconstant also. But the seasons equally depend on a multitude of other laws, — laws of heat, laws of light, laws relating to fluids, and to solids, and to gases, and to magnetic attractions and repulsions, each one of which laws is invariable in itself, bait each of which would produce utter  confusion if it were allowed to operate alone, or if it were not balanced against others in the right proportion. It is very difficult to form any adequate idea of the vast number of laws which are concerned in producing the most ordinary operations of Nature. Looking only at the combinations with which Astronomy is concerned, the adjustments are almost infinite. Each minutest circumstance in the position, or size, or shape of the earth, the direction of its axis, the velocity of its motion and of its rotation, has its own definite effect, and the slightest change in any one of these relations would wholly alter the world we live in. And then it is to be remembered that the seasons, as they are now fitted to us, and as we are fitted to them, do not depend only on the facts or the laws which Astronomy reveals. They depend quite as much on other sets of facts, and other sets of laws, revealed by other sciences, — such, for example, as Chemistry, Electricity, and Geology. The motion of the Earth might be exactly what it is, every fact in respect to our Planetary position might remain unchanged, yet the seasons would return in vain if our own atmosphere were altered  in any one of the elements of its composition, or if any one of the laws regulating the action were other than it is. Under a thinner air even the torrid zone might be wrapped in eternal snow. Under a denser air, and one with different refracting powers, the earth and all that is therein might be burnt up. And so it is through the whole of Nature: laws everywhere — laws in themselves invariable, but so worked as to produce effects of inexhaustible variety by being pitched against each other, and made to hold each other in restraint.
I have already referred to Chemistry as a science full of illustrations of Law in the First and simplest sense — that is, of facts in observed orders of recurrence. But Chemistry is a science not less rich in illustration of Law in the Fourth sense that is, of Forces in mutual adjustment. Indeed, in Chemistry, this system of adjustment among the different properties of matter is especially intricate and observable. Some of the laws which regulate Chemical Combination were discovered in our own time, and are amongst the most wonderful and the most beautiful which have  been revealed by any science. They are laws of great exactness, having invariable relations to number and proportion. Each elementary substance has its own combining proportions with other elements, so that, except in these proportions, no chemical union can take place at all. And when chemical union does take place, the compounds which result have different and even opposite powers, according to the different proportions employed. Then, the relations in which these inorganic compounds stand to the chemistry of Life, constitute another vast series in which the principle of adjustment has applications infinite in number, and as infinite in beauty. How delicate these relations are, and how tremendous are the issues depending on their management, may be conceived from this single fact, that the same elements combined in one proportion are sometimes a nutritious food or a grateful stimulant, soothing and sustaining the powers of life; whilst, combined in another proportion, they may be a deadly poison, paralysing the heart and carrying agony along every nerve and fibre of the animal frame. This is no mere theoretical possibility. It is actually  the relation, for example, in which two well — known substances stand to each other — Tea and Strychnia. The active principles of these two substances," Theine " and" Strychnine," are identical so far as their elements are concerned, and differ from each other only in the proportions in which they are combined. Such is the power of numbers in the laboratory of Nature! What havoc in this world, so full of Life, would be made by blind chance gambling with such powers as these! What confusion, unless they were governed by laws whose certainty makes them capable of fine adjustment, and therefore subject to accurate control! How fine these adjustments are, and how absolute is that control, is indicated in another fact — and that is the few elements out of which all things are made. The number of substances deemed elementary has varied with the advance of Science; but as compared with the variety of their products, that number may be considered as infinitesimally small; whilst the progress of analysis, with glimpses of laws as yet unknown, renders it almost certain that this number will be found to be smaller still. Yet out  of that small number of elementary substances, having fixed rules, too, limiting their combination, all the infinite varieties of organic and inorganic matter are built up by means of nice adjustment. As all the faculties of a powerful mind can utter their voice in language whose elements are reducible to twenty — four letters, so all the forms of Nature, with all the ideas they express, are worked out from a few simple elements having a few simple properties.
Simple! can we call them so? Yes, simple by comparison with the exceeding complication of the uses they are made to serve: simple also, in this sense, that they follow some simple rule of numbers. But in themselves these laws, these forces, are incomprehensible. That which is most remarkable about them is their unchangeableness. The whole mind and imagination of scientific men is often so impressed with this character of material laws, that no room is left for the perception of other aspects of their nature and of their work. We hear of rigid and universal sequence — necessary — invariable; — of unbroken chains of cause and effect, no link of which can, in the nature of things, be ever broken. And this idea grows upon the mind, until in some confused manner it is held as casting out the idea of Purpose in creation, and inconsistent with the element of Will. If it be so, the difficulty cannot be evaded by denying the uniformity, any more than the universality, of Law. It is perfectly true that every law is, in its own nature, invariable, producing always precisely and necessarily the same effects, — that is, provided it is worked under the same conditions. But then, if the conditions are not the same, the invariableness of effect gives place to capacities of change which are almost infinite. It is by altering the conditions under which any given law is brought to bear, and by bringing other laws to operate upon the same subject, that our own Wills exercise a large and increasing power over the material world And be it observed — to this end the uniformity of laws is no impediment, but, on the contrary, it is an indispensable condition. Laws are in themselves unchangeable, and if they were not unchangeable, they could not be used as the instruments of Will. I If they were less rigorous  they would be less certain, and the least uncertainty would render them incapable of any service. No adjustment, however nice, could secure its purpose if the implements employed were of uncertain temper.
The notion therefore that the uniformity or invariableness of the Laws of Nature, cannot be reconciled with their subordination to the exercise of Will, is a notion contrary to our own experience. It is a confusion of thought arising very much out of the ambiguity of language. For let it be observed that, of all the senses in which the word Law is used,Cthere is only one in which it is true that laws are immutable or invariable; and that is the sense in which Law is used to designate an individual Force. Gravitation, for example, is immutable in this respect — that (so far as we know) it never operates according to any other measure than"directly as the mass, and inversely as the square of the distance." But in all the other senses in which the word Law is used, laws are not immutable; but, on the contrary,they are the great instruments, the unceasing agencies, of change. When therefore, scientific men speak, as they often do  of all phenomena being governed by invariable laws, they use language which is ambiguous, and in most cases they use it in a sense which covers an erroneous idea of the facts. There are no phenomena visible to Man of which it is true to say that they are governed by any invariable Force. That which does govern them is always some variable combinations of invariable forces. But this makes all the difference in reasoning on the relation of Will to Law, — this is the one essential distinction to be admitted and observed. There is no observed Order of facts which is not due to a combination of Forces; and there is no combination of Forces which is invariable — none which are not capable of change in infinite degrees. In these senses — and these are the common senses in which Law is used to express the phenomena of Nature — Law is not rigid, it is not immutable, it is not invariable, but it is, on the contrary, pliable, subtle, various. In the only sense in which laws are immutable, this immutability is the very characteristic which makes them subject to guidance through endless cycles of design. We know this in our own case.  It is the very certainty and invariableness of the laws of Nature which alone enables us to use them, and to yoke them to our service.
Now, the laws of Nature are employed in the system of Nature in a manner precisely analogous to that in which we ourselves employ them. The difficulties and obstructions which are presented by one law in the way of accomplishing a given purpose, are met and overcome exactly on the same principle on which they are met and overcome by Man — viz., by knowledge of other laws, and by resource in applying them, — that is, by ingenuity in mechanical contrivance. It cannot be too much insisted on, that this is a conclusion of pure Science. The relation which an organic structure bears to its purpose in Nature can be recognised as certainly as the same relation between a machine and its purpose in human art. It is absurd to maintain, for example, that the purpose of the cellular arrangement of material in combining lightness with strength, is a purpose legitimately cognisable by Science in the Menai Bridge, but is not as legitimately cognisable when it is seen in Nature,  actually serving the same use. The little Barnacles which crust the rocks at low tide, and which to live there at all must be able to resist the surf, have the building of their shells constructed strictly with reference to this necessity. It is a structure all hollowed and chambered on the plan which engineers have so lately discovered as an arrangement of material by which the power of resisting strain or pressure is multiplied in a extraordinary degree. That shell is as pure a bit of mechanics as the bridge, both being structures in Which the same arrangement is adapted to the same end.
"Small, but a work divine;
Frail, but of force to withstand,
Year upon year, the shock
Of cataract seas that snap
The three — decker's oaken spine."7
This is but one instance out of a number which no man can count. So far as we know, no Law that is, no elementary Force — of Nature is liable to change But every Law of Nature is liable to counteraction; and the rule is, that laws are habitually made to counteract each other in precisely [102/103] the manner and degree which some definite result requires.
Nor is it less remarkable that the converse of this is true: no Purpose is ever attained in Nature, except by the enlistment of Laws as the means and instruments of attainment. When an extraordinary result is aimed at, it often happens that some common law is yoked to extraordinary conditions, and its action is intensified by some special machinery. For example, the Forces of Electricity are in action probably in all living Organisms, but certainly in the muscular and nervous system of the higher animals. In a very few (so far as yet known, in only a very few animals among the millions which exist, and these all belonging to the Class of Fishes), the electrical action has been so stored and concentrated as to render it serviceable as a weapon of offence. Creatures which grovel at the bottom of the sea or its the slime of rivers, have been gifted with the astonishing faculty of wielding at their will the most subtle of all the powers of Nature. They have the faculty of "shooting out lightning" against their enemies or their prey. But this gift has not been [103/104] given without an exact fulfilment of all the laws which govern Electricity, and which especially govern its concentration and destructive force. The Electric Ray, or Torpedo, has been provided with a battery closely resembling, but greatly exceeding in the beauty and compactness of its structure, the batteries whereby Man has now learnt to make the laws of Electricity subservient to his will. There are no less than 940 hexagonal columns in this battery, like those of a bees' comb, and each of these is subdivided by a series .of horizontal plates which appear to be analogous to the plates of the voltaic pile. The whole is supplied with an enormous amount of nervous matter — four great branches of which are as large as the animal's spinal cord, and these spread out in a multitude of thread — like filaments round the prismatic columns, and finally pass into all the cells.8 This again seems to suggest an analogy with the arrangement by which an electric current, passing through a coil and round a magnet, is used to intensify the magnetic force. A complete [104/105] knowledge of all the mysteries which have been gradually unfolded from the days of Galvini to those of Faraday, and of many others which are still inscrutable to us, is exhibited in this structure. The laws which are appealed to in the accomplishment of this purpose are many and very complicated; because the conditions to be satisfied refer not merely to the generation of Electric force in the animal to which it is given, but to its effect on the nervous system of the animals against which it is to be employed, and to the conducting medium in which both are moving.
When we contemplate such a structure as this, the idea is borne in with force upon the mind, that the need of conforming to definite conditions seems as absolute a necessity in making an Electric Fish as in making an Electric Telegraph. But the fact of these conditions existing and requiring to be satisfied, — or, in other words, the fact of so many natural laws demanding a first obedience, — is not the ultimate fact, it is not even the main fact, which Science apprehends in such phenomena as these. On the contrary, that which is most [105/106] observable and most certain, is the manner in which these conditions are met, complied with, and, by being complied with, are overcome. But this is, in other words, the subordination of many laws to a difficult and curious Purpose, — a subordination which is effected through the instrumentality of a purely mechanical contrivance.
It is no objection to this universal truth, that the machines thus employed in Nature are themselves constructed through the agency of Law. They grow, or, in modern phraseology, they are. developed. But this makes no difference in the case or rather it only carries us farther back to other and yet other illustrations of the same truth. This is precisely one of those cases already referred to in which Causes are unknown whilst Purposes are clear and certain. The battery of an Electric Fish is both a means and an end. As respects the electric laws which it puts in motion — that is, as respects the force which it concentrates — it must be regarded as a means. As respects the organic laws by which it is itself.' developed, it is an end. What we do know in this case is why the apparatus was made. That is to [106/107] say, what we do know is the Purpose. What we do not know, and have no idea of, is how it was made. That is to say, what we do not know is the Law, the Force or Forces which have been used as the instrument of that Purpose. When Man makes a voltaic battery, he selects materials which have properties and relations with each other previously ascertained — metals worked out of natural ores, acids distilled out of other natural substances; and he puts these together in such fashion as he knows will generate the mysterious Force which he desires to evoke and to employ. But how can such a machine be made out of the tissues of a fish? Well may Mr Darwin say, "It is impossible to conceive by what steps these wondrous organs have been produced."9 We see the Purpose — that a special apparatus should be prepared, and we see that it is effected by the production of the machine required; but we have not the remotest notion of the means employed. Yet we can see so much as this, that here again other laws, belonging altogether to another department of Nature — laws of organic growth are made sub [107/108] servient to a very definite and very peculiar Purpose. The paramount facts disclosed by Science, however, in this case, are these: — first, the adaptation of the animal tissues to form a battery; and secondly, the Purpose or function of the apparatus when made, to discharge electric shocks.
It is very difficult to divest ourselves of the notion, that whatever happens by way of natural consequence is thereby removed, at least by one degree, from being the expression of Will and the effect of Purpose. We forget that all our own works, not less than the works of Nature, are works done through the means and instrumentality of Law. All that we can effect, is brought about by way of natural consequence. All our machines are simply contrivances for bringing natural Forces into operation; and these machines themselves we are able to construct, only out of the materials and by application of the laws of Nature. The Steam engine works by way of natural consequence; so does Mr Babbage's Calculating Machine; so does the Electric Telegraph; so does the Solar System. It is true, indeed, that in all human machinery we know by the evidence of sight the [108/109] ultimate agency to which the machinery is due, whereas in the machinery of Nature the ultimate agency is concealed from sight. But it is the very business and work of Science to rise from the Visible to the Invisible — from what we observe by Sense to what we know by Reason.
And this brings us to the Fifth meaning in which the word Law is habitually used in Science, — a meaning which is indeed well deserving of attention. In this sense, Law is used to designate, not any observed Order of facts, — not any Force to which such Order may be due, — neither yet any combinations of Force adjusted to the discharge of function, but — some purely Abstract Idea, which carries up to a higher point our conception of what the phenomena are and of what they do. There may be no phenomena actually corresponding to such Idea, and yet a clear conception of it may be essential to a right understanding of all the phenomena around us. A good example of Law in this sense is to be found in the law which, in the Science of Mechanics, is called the First Law of Motion. The law is, that all motion is in itself, (that is to say, except as affected by extraneous Forces,) uni — [109/110] form in velocity, and rectilinear in direction. Thus according to this law a body moving, and not subject to any extraneous Force, would go on moving for ever at the same rate of velocity, and in an exactly straight line.
Now, there is no such motion as this existing on the earth or in the heavens. It is an Abstract Idea of Motion which no man has ever, or can ever, see exemplified. Yet a clear apprehension of this Abstract Idea was necessary to a right understanding and to the true explanation of all the motions which are actually seen. It was long before this idea was arrived at; and for want of it, the efforts of Science to explain the visible phenomena of Motion were always taking a wrong direction. There was a real difficulty in conceiving it, because not only is there no such motion in Nature, but there is no possibility by artificial means of producing it. It is impossible to release any moving body from the impulses of extraneous Force. The First Law of Motion is therefore a purely Abstract Idea. It represents a Rule which never operates as we conceive it, by itself but is always complicated with other Rules which [110/111] produce a corresponding complication in result. Like many other laws of the same class, it was discovered, not by looking outwards, but by looking inwards ; not by observing, but by thinking. The human mind, in tile exercise of its own faculties and powers, sometimes by careful reasoning, sometimes by the intuitions of genius unconscious of any process, is able, from time to time, to reach now one, now another, of those purely Intellectual Conceptions which are the basis of all that is intelligible to us in the Order of the Material World. We look for an ideal order or simplicity in material Law; and the very possibility of exact Science depends upon the fact that such ideal order does actually prevail, and is related to the abstract conceptions of our own intellectual nature. It is in this way that many of the greatest discoveries of Science have been made. Especially have the great pioneers in new paths of discovery been led to the opening of those paths by that fine sense for abstract truths which is the noblest gift of genius. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo were all guided in their profound interpretations of visible phenomena by those intuitions [111/112] which arise in minds finely organised, brought into close relations with the mind of Nature, and highly trained in the exercise of speculative thought. They guessed the truth before they proved it to be true; and those guesses had their origin in Abstract Ideas of the mind which turned out to be ideas really embodied in the Order of the Universe. So constantly has this recurred in the history of Science, that as Dr Whewell says, it is not to be considered as an exception, but as the rule.10
And now having traced the various senses in which Law is used, we can form some estimate on the value of those conclusions of which some men are so boastful and of which other men are so much afraid. We can see how much and how little is really meant when it is said that Law can be traced in all things, and all things can be traced to Law. It is a great mistake to suppose that, [112/113] in establishing this conclusion the progress of modern investigation is in a direction tending to Materialism. This may be and always has been the tendency of individual minds. There are men who would stare into the very Burning Bush without a thought that the ground on which they stand must be Holy Ground. It is not now of wood or stone that men make their Idols, but of their own abstract conceptions. Before these, borrowing for them the attributes of Personality, they bow down and worship. Nothing is more common than to find men who may be trusted thoroughly on the facts of their own Science,.who cannot be trusted for a moment on the place which those facts assume in the general system of truth. Philosophy must include Science; but Science does not necessarily include Philosophy. There are, and there always have been, some special misconceptions connected with the prosecution of physical research. It is, however, on the surface of things, rather than below it, that the suggestions of Materialism lie thickest to the eye. They abound among the commonest facts which obtrude themselves on our attention in Nature and in [113/114] human life. When the bursting of some small duct of blood upon the Brain is seen to destroy in a moment the Mind of Man, and to break down all the powers of his intellect and his Will, we are in presence of a fact whose significance cannot be increased by a million of other facts analogous in kind.
Yet on every fresh discovery of a few more such facts, there is generally some fresh outbreak of old delusions respecting the forms and the Laws of Matter as the supreme realities of the world. But when the new facts have — been looked at a little longer, it is always seen that they take their place with others which have been long familiar, and the eternal problems which lie behind all natural phenomena are seen to be unaffected and unchanged. Like the most distant of the Fixed Stars, they have no parallax. The whole orbit of human knowledge shows in them no apparent change of place. No amount of knowledge of the kind which alone physical Science can impart can do more than widen the foundation of intelligent spiritual beliefs. We think that Astronomy and Geology have given to us in these latter days ideas [114/115] wholly new in respect to Space and Time. Yet, after all, can we express those ideas, or can we indicate the questions they suggest in any language which approaches in power to the majestic utterances of David and of job? We know more than they knew of the magnitude of the Heavenly Bodies; but what more can we say than they said of the wonder of them, — of Orion, of Arcturus, and the Pleiades? 11 We know that the Earth moves, which they did not know; and we know that the rapid rotation of a globe on its own axis is a means of maintaining the steadiness of that axis in its course through Space. But what effect, except that of increasing its significance, has this knowledge upon the praise which David ascribes to that ultimate Agency which has" made the round world so sure that it cannot be moved?"12
And so of other departments of Science. Even the modern idea of Law, of the constancy and therefore the trustworthiness of Natural Forces, has been known, not indeed scientifically but instinctively, to Man since first he made a Tool, and used it as the instrument of Purpose. What [115/116] has Science added to this idea, except that the same rule prevails as widely as the Universe, and is made subservient in a like manner to Knowledge and to Will? In the enthusiasm awakened by the discovery of some new facts, or of some new forces, and in the freshness with which they impress the idea of such agencies on our minds, we sometimes very naturally exaggerate the length of way along which they carry us towards the great ultimate objects of intellectual desire. We forget altogether that the knowledge they convey is in quality and in kind identical with knowledge already long in our possession, and places us in no new relation whatever to the vast background of the Eternal and the Unseen. Thus it is that the notions of Materialism are perpetually reviving, and are again being perpetually swept away — swept away partly before the Intuitions of the Mind, partly before the conclusions of the Reason. For there are two great enemies to Materialism, — one rooted in the Affections, the other in the Intellect. One is the power of THINGS HOPED FOR — a power which never dies
the other is the evidence of THINGS NOT SEEN  — and this evidence abounds in all we see. In reinforcing this evidence, and in adding to it, Science is doing boundless work in the present day. It is not the extent of our knowledge, but rather the limits Of it, that physical research teaches us to see and to feel the most. Of course, in so far as its discoveries are really true, its influence must be for good. To doubt this were to doubt that all truth is true, and that all truth is God's.
There are eddies in every stream — eddies where rubbish will collect, and circle for a time. But the ultimate bearing of scientific truth cannot be mistaken. Nothing is more remarkable in the present state of physical research than what may be called the transcendental character of its results. And what is transcendentalism but the tendency to trace up all things to the relation in which they stand to abstract Ideas? And what is this but to bring all physical phenomena nearer and nearer into relation with the phenomena of Mind? The old speculations of Philosophy which cut the ground from Materialism by showing how little we know of Matter, are now being daily reinforced by the subtle analysis of the Physiologist, the Chemist, [117/118] and the Electrician. Under that analysis Matter dissolves and disappears, surviving only as the phenomena of Force; which again is seen converging along all its lines to some common centre — "sloping through darkness up to God."13
Even the writers who have incurred most reasonable suspicion as to the drift of their teaching, give nevertheless constant witness to what may be called the purely mental quality of the ultimate results of physical inquiry. It has been said with perfect truth that"the fundamental ideas of modern Science are as transcendental as any of the axioms in ancient philosophy."14 We have seen that one of the senses in which Law is habitually used is to designate abstract ideas and doctrines of this kind. So far from these doctrines and ideas having a tendency to Materialism, they serve rather to bring inside the strict domain of Science ideas which in the earlier stages of human knowledge lay wholly within the region of Faith or of Belief. For example, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews specially declares that it is by Faith [118/119] that we understand" that the things which are seen were not made of the things which do appear." Yet this is now one of the most assured doctrines of Science, — that invisible Forces are behind and above all visible phenomena, moulding them in forms of infinite variety, of all which forms the only real knowledge we possess lies in our perception of the Ideas they express — of their beauty, or of their fitness, — in short, of their being all the work of "Toil co-operant to an End."
Every natural Force which we call a law is itself invisible — the idea of it in the mind arising by way of necessary inference out of an observed Order of facts. And very often, if not always, in our conception of these Forces, we are investing them with the attributes of Intelligence and of Will at the very moment, perhaps, when we are stumbling over the difficulty of seeing in them the exponents of a Mind which is intelligent and of a Will which is Supreme. The deeper we go in Science, the more certain it becomes that all the realities of Nature are in the region of the Invisible, so that the saying is literally, and not merely figuratively true, that the things which are seen are temporal, [119/120] and it is only the things which are not seen that are eternal. For example, we never see the phenomena of Life dissociated from Organisation. Yet the profoundest physiologists have come to the conclusion that Organisation is not the cause of Life, but, on the contrary, that Life is the cause of Organisation, — Life being somethinga Force of some kind, by whatever name we may call it — which precedes Organisation, and fashions it, and builds it up. This was the conclusion come to by the great anatomist Hunter, and it is the conclusion endorsed in our own day by such men as Dr Carpenter and Professor Huxley,15 — men whose philosophy has certainly no bias towards either theological or metaphysical explanations, or towards belief in anything which cannot be seen, and weighed, and handled. One illustration referred to by these writers is derived from the shells — the beautiful shells — of the animals called the "Foraminifera." No Forms in Nature are more exquisite. Yet they are the work and the abode of animals which are mere blobs of jelly — without [120/121] parts, without organs — absolutely without visible structure of any kind. In this jelly, nevertheless, there works a"vital Force" capable of building up an Organism of most complicated and perfect symmetry.
But what is a vital Force? It is something which we cannot see, but of whose existence we are as certain as we are of its visible effects — nay, which our reason tells us precedes and is superior to these. We often speak of Material Forces as if we could identify any kind of Force with Matter. But this is only one of the many ambiguities of language. All that we mean by a Material Force is a force which acts upon Matter, and produces in matter its own appropriate effects. We must go a step farther therefore and ask ourselves, What is Force ? What is our conception of it? What idea can we form, for example, of the real nature of that force, the measure of whose operation has been so exactly ascertained — the Force of Gravitation? It is invisible — imponderableall our words for it are but circumlocutions to express its phenomena or effects.
There are many kinds of force in Nature — which [121/122] we distinguish after the same fashion — according to their effects or according to the forms of Matter in which they become cognisable to us. But if we trace all our conceptions on the nature of Force to their fountain — head, we shall find that they are formed on our own consciousness of Living Effort — of that force which has its seat in our own vitality, and especially with that kind of it which can be called forth at the bidding of the Will. If we can ever know anything of the nature of any Force, it ought to be of this one: And yet the fact is that we know nothing. If, then, we know nothing of that kind of Force which is so near to us, and with which our own Intelligence is in such close alliance, much less can we know the ultimate nature of Force in its other forms. It is important to dwell on this because both the aversion with which some men regard the idea of the Reign of Law, and the triumph with which some others hail it, are founded on a notion that when we have traced any given phenomena to what are called Natural Forces, we have traced them farther than we really have, We know nothing of the ultimate nature, or of [122/123] the ultimate scat of Force. Science, in the modern doctrine of the Conservation of Energy, and the Convertibility of Forces, is already getting something like a firm hold of the idea that all kinds of Force are but forms or manifestations of some one Central Force issuing from some one Fountain — head of Power. Sir John Herschel has not hesitated to say, that "it is but reasonable to regard the Force of Gravitation as the direct or indirect result of a Consciousness or a Will existing somewhere."16 And even if we cannot certainly identify Force in all its forms with the direct energies of One Omnipresent and all pervading Will, it is at least in the highest degree unphilosophical to assume the contrary — to speak or to think as if the Forces of Nature were either independent of, or even separate from, the Creator's Power.
It follows, then, from these considerations that whatever difficulty there may be in conceiving of a Will not exercised by a visible Person, i's a difficulty [123/124] have arrived in forming the idea of Laws or Forces. That idea is itself made up out of elements derived from our own consciousness of Personality. This fact is seen by men who do not see the interpretation of it. They denounce as a superstition the idea of any Personal Will separable from the Forces which work in Nature. They say that this idea is a mere projection of our own Personality into the world beyond — the shadow of our own Form cast upon the ground on which we look. And indeed this, in a sense, is true. It is perfectly true that the Mind does recognise in Nature a reflection of itself. But if this be a deception, it is a deception which is not avoided by transferring the idea of Personality to the abstract Idea of Force, or by investing combinations of Force with the attributes of Mind.
We need not be jealous, then, when new domains are claimed as under the Reign of Law — an agency through which we see working everywhere some Purpose of the Everlasting Will. There are many things in Nature of which we do not see the reason; and many other things of which we cannot find out the cause; but there are none from which we [124/125] exclude the idea of Purpose by success in discovering the cause. It has been said, with perfect truth, by a living naturalist who is of all others most opposed to what he calls Theological explanations in Science, that we may just as well speak of a watch as the abode of a"watch — force," as speak of the organisation of an animal as the abode of a "vital Force."17 The analogy is precise and accurate. The Forces by which a watch moves are natural Forces. It is the relation of interdependence in which those Forces are placed to each other, or, in other words, the adjustment of them to a particular Purpose, which constitutes the "watch — force;" and the seat of this Force — which is in fact no one Force, but a combination of many forces, is in the Intelligence which conceived that combination, and in the Will which gave it effect. The mechanisms devised by Man are in this respect only an image of the more perfect mechanism of Nature, in which the same principle of Adjustment is always the highest result which Science can ascertain or recognise. There is this [125/126] difference, indeed, — that in regard to our works we see that our knowledge of natural laws is very imperfect, and our control over them is very feeble; whereas in the machinery of Nature there is evidence of complete knowledge and of absolute control. The universal rule is that everything is brought about by way of Natural Consequence. But another rule is, that all natural consequences meet and fit into each other in endless circles of Harmony and of Purpose. And this can only be explained by the fact that what we call Natural Consequence is always the conjoint effect of an infinite number of elementary Forces, whose action and reaction are under direction of the Will which we see obeyed, and of the Purposes which we see actually attained.
It is, indeed, the completeness of the analogy between our own works on a small scale, and the works of the Creator on an infinitely large scale, which is the greatest mystery of all. Man is under constraint to adopt the principle of Adjustment, because the Forces of Nature are external to and independent of his Will. They may be managed, but they cannot be disobeyed. It is [126/127] impossible to suppose that they stand in the same relation to the Will of the Supreme; yet it seems as if He took the same method of dealing with them — never violating them, never breaking them, but always ruling them by that which we call Adjustment or Contrivance. Nothing gives us such an idea of the immutability of Laws as this! nor does anything give us such an idea of their pliability to use. How imperious they are, yet how submissive ! How they reign, yet how they serve!
Last modified 10 December 2008