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SEPTEMBER, 18 5 9.
Art. I. — THE FUTURE OF MAN AND BRUTE.
1. Modern Materialism. A Sermon preached at the Ordination of
Mr. Charles Lowe. By John Weiss. New Bedford. 1852. 2. Chapters on Mental Philosophy. By HENRY HOLLAND, M.D.,
F. R. S. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
1852. 3. Athanasia, or Foregleams of Immortality. By EDMUND H. SEARS.
Boston: American Unitarian Association. 1858. 4. The Passions of Animals. By EDWARD P. THOMPSON. London:
Chapman and Hall. 1851.
Man claims reason and immortality as belonging to himself alone among the inhabitants of the earth. The lower orders of being possess certain attributes which he calls instincts; they possess a life, which is superior, indeed, to that of the plant, but which ceases entirely with death. The animal has no future. When man looks upon the loss works of human genius; when he surveys statues and tempi, when his soul is borne heavenward on the wings of music; when it is thrilled by the fire of poetry; when he looks upon the broad civilizations which are the work of ages; when he looks within the breast of his fellow-man, or even into his own, and sees the lofty aspirations, the embracing love, the mighty intellect that inspires; — and then looks down upon the speechless and apparently unreasoning brute, he sees nothing to disturb him in this self-satisfaction. But when he looks at the lower forms of humanity, at the ignorant savage of the wilderness, at the scarcely
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less ignorant and more debased products of an overwrought civilization, his pride is somewhat lessened. When he examines, on the other hand, step by step, the progressive development of lower life, and finds nowhere any break; when he examines the structure of the highest forms of brute life, and finds a caricature of himself; when he sees the skeleton of the orang-outang hanging by the side of the human skeleton, and seeming to cast towards it a grin of recognition and relationship; when he studies the more internal faculties of the higher animal, and finds there in germ the types of all or nearly all his own;— he is for the moment startled. The gulf which was infinite appears narrow, as if a leap might pass it. He feels at first somewhat like a man who, having been raised from some low estate to the midst of wealth and fashion, trembles whenever he sees one of his old neighbors and kinsfolk, fearing lest he should recognize and betray him, and the world of fashion should cast him out, and he should topple back again into the depths which he would fain forget. So man, with one hand warm in the grasp of the angels, shudders to feel upon the other the clammy fingers of the chimpanzee.
So, too, with his reasonings on the subject of immortality. He is at times bewildered to find how easily their application admits of extension. The faculties of the animal, do not they prove the presence of something immaterial, and this something, must it not then continue to exist, in a universe where there seems to be no destruction ? Is the life of the animal equalized ? Look at the poor horse staggering under his burden, suffering from rude and heavy blows, who has perhaps never had a moment free from pain and hunger, from the time when this burden of existence, the heaviest he has ever had to bear, was laid upon him, and never will, until he yields to the weight of this burden, and stumbles and falls into death. Is there no recompense for him,- nothing to equalize his lot?
Man looks backward upon the geologic eras. He sees each race of plants and animals imperfect, pointing to and typifying a higher. This higher comes; but it is a new race replacing the old, and not the re-formation and the development of this old. Why may it not be so in his case? These powers and capacities of his, which seemed to prophesy a higher stage of being, which he looks upon almost as certificates pledging to him this being, why may not these also meet with their fulfilment in a new race, as distinct from his as that of the horse is from that of the icthyosaurus ?
These questions and these analogies seem at first sight to admit of but two solutions : either, so far as the revelations of nature alone are concerned, man is shut out from a personal immortality; or else he presses into it, as Noah did into the ark, with the crowds of these lower creations which he despises. He feels something as the fashionable parvenu who has been referred to would feel, if, invited to some princely banquet, he should go, full of self-complacency, and find there these despised connections of his, the beggars and horse-stealers, invited like himself, as if to mortify and debase him.
These are questions which are rising with more or less distinctness in many minds, and which demand a solution. They contain weapons which infidelity knows how to use, and stumbling-stones over which faith has bruised itself. Revelation, it is true, is clear enough to satisfy them so far as the immortality of man is concerned; but yet the mind gladly sees a harmony between the written and the unwritten word.
The question divides itself into two parts: the first has to do with the physical structure of man in its relation to that of the animal; and the second, with his mental and psychological structure in the same relation.
The first of these questions more fully stated is this: Why, as in the creation one race succeeded another, cannot the next step be that another race shall succeed, and supersede man? This question we can here discuss only in a very brief and general manner. All the different forms of organic life are formed upon the same general plan. All are developed alike from the minute cellule. The leaf formation of the plant furnishes a type only less general than this. The germs of the highest organisms are found in the lowest. The skull of man, for instance, may be considered as an enlargement of the vertebral column. The rudiments of the limbs are found in the. bony structure of the fish. So far as our present argument is concerned, we are willing to grant all that has been claimed by the most extravagant defenders of the theory of develop
ment. It amounts to this: the human form and organization may be typically considered as a regular development from the lower forms of life. Its germs have existed in the earliest and lowest manifestations of this life. The remark that we have to make is, that man is the highest possible point to which this development can extend. The elements which underlie all organisms cannot be united in a higher form than in man. To go higher, a new type must be constructed ; this would be the giving up of the plan of creation. Thus man is not only the actual, but the ideal crown of the world.
It may be said that a horse, could he reason, would make the same claim. He would appear to himself the highest possible creation, and so would other forms of organic life to themselves. How, then, can we be certain that the claim is well founded in the case of man?
The first fact which we notice is, that while the other manifestations of life arise in groups out of groups, man stands alone. In the other instances of development, the new type is abstracted from various forms. In man there is nothing from which such an abstraction can be made. In the order Bimana, there is but one genus. In the genus Homo, there are varieties indeed, but only one species. Thus in man order, genus, and species have become one. He thus forms the highest and only possible climax of the world. As well repoint the perfect cone, or recap the pyramids, as carry the animal frame to a higher degree of perfection. The individuals, it is true, might become more perfect representatives of the type, but the type itself is perfect. Let us look at the matter a little more in detail. The view that has been taken is merely formal, and consequently unsatisfactory. We want to see, not only that man stands alone at the summit, but why he stands there, — to see the relation which he occupies in regard to the lower world. Animal forms are the manifestation of life. This, the higher manifest more perfectly than the lower. Until man appears, this is done very imperfectly. It will suffice to mention two examples of this. The self-support of an animal is, to a great degree, mechanical, and not vital. The fourfold arrangement of the legs is such, that no other effort of the will is required than is necessary to keep the knee-joint from