’The loving worm
within its clod
Were diviner than a loveless god
Amid his worlds,’
a gleam of fire shot from the mild eye of Mr. Morell, significant as a storm-signal across a sea of glass.
The younger man was often taken at disadvantage, for, while he was in touch with modern thought, he did not possess the old dialectician’s skill. Once, as Mr. Penrose remarked that science was modifying theology, Mr. Morell, detecting the flaw in his armour, thrust in his lance to the hilt by replying that science and Calvinism were logically the same, with the exception that, for heredity and environment, the Calvinist introduced grace.
Whereupon Mr. Penrose cried with some vehemence:
’No, no, Mr. Morell! that will not do. I cannot accept your statement at all.’
‘Can’t you?’ said the old man, rising from his chair, the war spirit hardening his voice and flaming in his eye. ’Can’t you? What says science of the first hundred men which will pass you, if you take your stand in the main thoroughfare of the great city over the hills yonder? Watch them; one is drunk, another is linked arm in arm with his paramour, a third is handcuffed, and you can see by the conduct of him who follows that he is as reckless of life as though the years were for ever. Why these? Ask science, and it answers election—the election of birth and circumstance. Ask Calvinism, and it, too, answers election—the election of decrees.’
‘But science does not do away with will, Mr. Morell.’
’Well, then, it teaches its impotence, and that is the same thing. It bases will on organization, and traces conduct to material sources. Huxley tells us the salvation of a child is to be born with a sound digestion, and Calvinism says the salvation of a child is to be born under the election of grace. Logically, the basis of both systems is the same; the sources of life differ, that is all. One traces from matter, the other from mind—from the mind and will of the Eternal.’
‘But science fixes it for earth only—you fix it for eternity,’ suggestively hinted the younger man.
‘Yes, you are right, Mr. Penrose; we do.’
’Then a man is lost because he cannot be saved, and punished for things over which he had no control?’
‘Ask science,’ was the curt reply.
’Well, Mr. Morell, I will ask science, and science will yield hope. Science says, take a hundred men and a hundred women, and let them live on a fruitful island and multiply, and in four generations you will have an improved stock—a stock freer from atavism, hysteria, anomalies, and insanities. Science holds out hope; you don’t. You say God’s will and decrees are eternal, and what they were a thousand ages since they will be a thousand ages to come. Science does eventually point to a new heaven and new earth, but Calvinism throws no light across the gloom.’
The old man quietly shifted his ground by asking his opponent if he ever asked himself why he did, and why he did not, do certain things.