But this hypothesis explains what else were inexplicable. It works. And, confronting the hypothesis of immortality, he insists that a future life must embrace retribution. “As a man sows, so shall he also reap.” Immortality is not to be regarded as a sentimental compensation for our terrestrial experience, but as the essential continuity of our spiritual evolution. “For many, no doubt, it will mean an experience of probation, and for all one of retribution.”
He sees clearly and gratefully that “the moral range of the work of Christ in the human soul, His gifts of grace, forgiveness, and power, lift men at once on to the plane of the spiritual and fill their conception of life with a new and richer content.” But he does not shut his eyes to the fact of the moral law, and with all the force of his character and all the strength of his intellect he accepts “the great principle that as a man sows, so shall he also reap.”
In this way Dr. Selbie prepares his students, not only to meet the intellectual difficulties of the future, but to stand fast in the ancient faith of their forefathers that the moral law is a fact of the universe. He helps them to be fighters as well as teachers. They are to fight the complacency of men, the false optimism of the world, the delusive tolerance of materialism. There is no need for them to preach hell fire and damnation, but throughout all their preaching, making it a real thing and a thing of the most pressing moment, must ring that just and inevitable word, Retribution. In a moral universe, selfishness involves, rightly and inevitably, suffering—suffering self-sown, self-determined, and self-merited.
He is the last man in the world from whom one would expect such teaching to emanate. He seems, in his social moments, a scholar who is scarcely aware of humanity in his delicious pursuit of pure truth, a man who inhabits the faery realm of ideas, and drinks the milk of Paradise. But approach him on other ground and you find, though his serenity never deserts him, though he is always imperturbable and unassertive, that his interest in humanity and the practical problems of humanity is as vivid and consuming as that of any social reformer.
There, in Oxford, among his books, and carrying on his duties as Principal of Mansfield College, Dr. Selbie, back from holidays spent in watching the great working world and listening to the teachers of that world, finds himself not alarmed, but anxious. The voice of religion, he feels, is not making itself heard, and the voices of churches are making only a discord. Men are going astray because they have no knowledge of their course, and the blind are falling into the ditch because they are led by the blind. How is this dangerous condition of things to be remedied?
He replies, By the teachers.