Read CHAPTER XXVII. of Paul Faber‚ Surgeon, free online book, by George MacDonald, on ReadCentral.com.

THE GROANS OF THE INARTICULATE.

The rest of the week was rainy, but Sunday rose a day of perfect summer.  As the curate went up the pulpit-stair, he felt as if the pulse of all creation were beating in unison with his own; for to-day he was the speaker for the speechless, the interpreter of groans to the creation of God.

He read, Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father, and said: 

“My friends, doth God care for sparrows?  Or saith He it altogether for our sakes, and not at all for the sparrows?  No, truly; for indeed it would be nothing to us if it were not every thing to the sparrows.  The word can not reach our door except through the sparrow’s nest.  For see! what comfort would it be to us to be told we were of more value than ever so many sparrows, if their value was nothing ­if God only knew and did not care for them?  The saying would but import that we were of more value than just nothing.  Oh, how skillful is unbelief to take all the color and all the sweetness and all the power out of the words of The Word Himself!  How many Christians are there not who take the passage to mean that not a sparrow can fall to the ground without the knowledge of its Creator!  A mighty thing that for the sparrow!  If such a Christian seemed to the sparrow the lawful interpreter of the sparrow’s Creator, he would make an infidel of the sparrow.  What Christ-like heart, what heart of loving man, could be content to take all the comfort to itself, and leave none for the sparrows?  Not that of our mighty brother Paul.  In his ears sounded, in his heart echoed, the cries of all the creation of God.  Their groanings that could not be uttered, roused the response of his great compassion.  When Christ was born in the heart of Paul, the whole creation of God was born with him; nothing that could feel could he help loving; in the trouble of the creatures’ troubles, sprang to life in his heart the hope, that all that could groan should yet rejoice, that on the lowest servant in the house should yet descend the fringe of the robe that was cast about the redeemed body of the Son. He was no pettifogging priest standing up for the rights of the superior!  An exclusive is a self-excluded Christian.  They that shut the door will find themselves on the wrong side of the door they have shut.  They that push with the horn and stamp with the hoof, can not be admitted to the fold.  St. Paul would acknowledge no distinctions.  He saw every wall ­of seclusion, of exclusion, of partition, broken down.  Jew and Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free ­all must come in to his heart.  Mankind was not enough to fill that divine space, enlarged to infinitude by the presence of the Christ:  angels, principalities, and powers, must share in its conscious splendor.  Not yet filled, yet unsatisfied with beings to love, Paul spread forth his arms to the whole groaning and troubled race of animals.  Whatever could send forth a sigh of discomfort, or heave a helpless limb in pain, he took to the bosom of his hope and affection ­yea, of his love and faith:  on them, too, he saw the cup of Christ’s heart overflow.  For Paul had heard, if not from His own, yet from the lips of them that heard Him speak, the words, Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? What if the little half-farthing things bear their share, and always have borne, in that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ?  In any case, not one of them, not one so young that it topples from the edge of its nest, unable to fly, is forgotten by the Father of men.  It shall not have a lonely deathbed, for the Father of Jesus will be with it.  It must be true.  It is indeed a daring word, but less would not be enough for the hearts of men, for the glory of God, for the need of the sparrow.  I do not close my eyes to one of a thousand seemingly contradictory facts.  I misdoubt my reading of the small-print notes, and appeal to the text, yea, beyond the text, even to the God of the sparrows Himself.

“I count it as belonging to the smallness of our faith, to the poorness of our religion, to the rudimentary condition of our nature, that our sympathy with God’s creatures is so small.  Whatever the narrowness of our poverty-stricken, threadbare theories concerning them, whatever the inhospitality and exclusiveness of our mean pride toward them, we can not escape admitting that to them pain is pain, and comfort is comfort; that they hunger and thirst; that sleep restores and death delivers them:  surely these are ground enough to the true heart wherefore it should love and cherish them ­the heart at least that believes with St. Paul, that they need and have the salvation of Christ as well as we.  Right grievously, though blindly, do they groan after it.

“The ignorance and pride which is forever sinking us toward them, are the very elements in us which mislead us in our judgment concerning them, causing us to imagine them not upon a lower merely, but upon an altogether different footing in creation from our own.  The same things we call by one name in us, and by another in them.  How jealous have not men been as to allowing them any share worthy the name of reason!  But you may see a greater difference in this respect between the lowest and the highest at a common school, than you will between them and us.  A pony that has taught itself without hands to pump water for its thirst, an elephant that puts forth its mighty lip to lift the moving wheel of the heavy wagon over the body of its fallen driver, has rather more to plead on the score of intellect than many a schoolboy.  Not a few of them shed tears.  A bishop, one of the foremost of our scholars, assured me that once he saw a certain animal laugh while playing off a practical joke on another of a different kind from himself.  I do not mention the kind of animal, because it would give occasion for a silly articulate joke, far inferior to his practical one.  I go further, and say, that I more than suspect a rudimentary conscience in every animal.  I care not how remotely rudimentary.  There must be in the moral world absolute and right potent germinal facts which lie infinitudes beyond the reach of any moral microscope, as in the natural world beyond the most powerful of lenses.  Yet surely in this respect also, one may see betwixt boys at the same school greater differences than there are betwixt the highest of the animals and the lowest of the humans.  If you plead for time for the boy to develop his poor rudimentary mollusk of a conscience, take it and heartily welcome ­but grant it the animals also.  With some of them it may need millions of years for any thing I know.  Certainly in many human beings it never comes plainly into our ken all the time they walk the earth.  Who shall say how far the vision of the apostle reached? but surely the hope in which he says God Himself subjected the creature to vanity, must have been an infinite hope:  I will hope infinitely.  That the Bible gives any ground for the general fancy that at death an animal ceases to exist, is but the merest dullest assumption.  Neither is there a single scientific argument, so far as I know, against the continued existence of the animals, which would not tell equally against human immortality.  My hope is, that in some way, concerning which I do not now choose to speculate, there may be progress, growth, for them also.  While I believe for myself, I must hope for them.  This much at least seems clear ­and I could press the argument further:  if not one of them is forgotten before God ­and one of them yet passes out of being ­then is God the God of the dead and not of the living!  But we praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father almighty!  Thy universe is life, life and not death.  Even the death which awoke in the bosom of Sin, Thy Son, opposing Himself to its hate, and letting it spend its fury upon Him, hath abolished.  I know nothing, therefore care little, as to whether or not it may have pleased God to bring man up to the hill of humanity through the swamps and thickets of lower animal nature, but I do care that I should not now any more approach that level, whether once rightly my own or not.  For what is honor in the animals, would be dishonor in me.  Not the less may such be the punishment, perhaps redemption, in store for some men and women.  For aught I know, or see unworthy in the thought, the self-sufficing exquisite, for instance, may one day find himself chattering amongst fellow apes in some monkey-village of Africa or Burmah.  Nor is the supposition absurd, though at first sight it may well so appear.  Let us remember that we carry in us the characteristics of each and every animal.  There is not one fiercest passion, one movement of affection, one trait of animal economy, one quality either for praise or blame, existing in them that does not exist in us.  The relationship can not be so very distant.  And if theirs be so freely in us, why deny them so much we call ours?  Hear how one of the ablest doctors of the English church, John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s in the reign of James the first, writes: ­

  Man is a lump where all beasts kneaded be;
  Wisdom makes him an ark where all agree;
  The fool, in whom these beasts do live at jar,
  Is sport to others, and a theater;
  Nor scapes he so, but is himself their prey;
  All which was man in him, is eat away;
  And now his beasts on one another feed,
  Yet couple in anger, and new monsters breed. 
  How happy’s he which hath due place assigned
  To his beasts, and disaforested his mind! 
  Impaled himself to keep them out, not in;
  Can sow, and dares trust corn where they have been;
  Can use his horse, goat, wolf, and every beast,
  And is not ass himself to all the rest! 
  Else man not only is the herd of swine,
  But he’s those devils, too, which did incline
  Them to an headlong rage, and made them worse;
  For man can add weight to heaven’s heaviest curse.

“It astonishes me, friends, that we are not more terrified at ourselves.  Except the living Father have brought order, harmony, a world, out of His chaos, a man is but a cage of unclean beasts, with no one to rule them, however fine a gentleman he may think himself.  Even in this fair, well-ordered England of ours, at Kirkdale, in Yorkshire, was discovered, some fifty years ago, a great cavern that had once been a nest of gigantic hyenas, evidenced by their own broken bones, and the crushed bones of tigers, elephants, bears, and many other creatures.  See to what a lovely peace the Creating Hand has even now brought our England, far as she is yet from being a province in the kingdom of Heaven; but see also in her former condition a type of the horror to which our souls may festering sink, if we shut out His free spirit, and have it no more moving upon the face of our waters.  And when I say a type, let us be assured there is no type worth the name which is not poor to express the glory or the horror it represents.

“To return to the animals:  they are a care to God! they occupy part of His thoughts; we have duties toward them, owe them friendliness, tenderness.  That God should see us use them as we do is a terrible fact ­a severe difficulty to faith.  For to such a pass has the worship of Knowledge ­an idol vile even as Mammon himself, and more cruel ­arrived, that its priests, men kind as other men to their own children, kind to the animals of their household, kind even to some of the wild animals, men who will scatter crumbs to the robins in winter, and set water for the sparrows on their house-top in summer, will yet, in the worship of this their idol, in their greed after the hidden things of the life of the flesh, without scruple, confessedly without compunction, will, I say, dead to the natural motions of the divine element in them, the inherited pity of God, subject innocent, helpless, appealing, dumb souls to such tortures whose bare description would justly set me forth to the blame of cruelty toward those who sat listening to the same.  Have these living, moving, seeing, hearing, feeling creatures, who could not be but by the will and the presence of Another any more than ourselves ­have they no rights in this their compelled existence?  Does the most earnest worship of an idol excuse robbery with violence extreme to obtain the sacrifices he loves?  Does the value of the thing that may be found there justify me in breaking into the house of another’s life?  Does his ignorance of the existence of that which I seek alter the case?  Can it be right to water the tree of knowledge with blood, and stir its boughs with the gusts of bitter agony, that we may force its flowers into blossom before their time?  Sweetly human must be the delights of knowledge so gained! grand in themselves, and ennobling in their tendencies!  Will it justify the same as a noble, a laudable, a worshipful endeavor to cover it with the reason or pretext ­God knows which ­of such love for my own human kind as strengthens me to the most ruthless torture of their poorer relations, whose little treasure I would tear from them that it may teach me how to add to their wealth?  May my God give me grace to prefer a hundred deaths to a life gained by the suffering of one simplest creature.  He holds his life as I hold mine by finding himself there where I find myself.  Shall I quiet my heart with the throbs of another heart? soothe my nerves with the agonized tension of a system? live a few days longer by a century of shrieking deaths?  It were a hellish wrong, a selfish, hateful, violent injustice.  An evil life it were that I gained or held by such foul means!  How could I even attempt to justify the injury, save on the plea that I am already better and more valuable than he; that I am the stronger; that the possession of all the pleasures of human intelligence gives me the right to turn the poor innocent joys of his senses into pains before which, threatening my own person, my very soul would grow gray with fear?  Or let me grant what many professional men deny utterly, that some knowledge of what is called practical value to the race has been thus attained ­what can be its results at best but the adding of a cubit to the life?  Grant that it gave us an immortal earthly existence, one so happy that the most sensual would never wish for death:  what would it be by such means to live forever?  God in Heaven! who, what is the man who would dare live a life wrung from the agonies of tortured innocents?  Against the will of my Maker, live by means that are an abhorrence to His soul!  Such a life must be all in the flesh! the spirit could have little share therein.  Could it be even a life of the flesh that came of treason committed against essential animality?  It could be but an abnormal monstrous existence, that sprang, toadstool-like, from the blood-marsh of cruelty ­a life neither spiritual nor fleshey, but devilish.

“It is true we are above the creatures ­but not to keep them down; they are for our use and service, but neither to be trodden under the foot of pride, nor misused as ministers, at their worst cost of suffering, to our inordinate desires of ease.  After no such fashion did God give them to be our helpers in living.  To be tortured that we might gather ease! none but a devil could have made them for that!  When I see a man who professes to believe not only in a God, but such a God as holds His court in the person of Jesus Christ, assail with miserable cruelty the scanty, lovely, timorous lives of the helpless about him, it sets my soul aflame with such indignant wrath, with such a sense of horrible incongruity and wrong to every harmony of Nature, human and divine, that I have to make haste and rush to the feet of the Master, lest I should scorn and hate where He has told me to love.  Such a wretch, not content that Christ should have died to save men, will tear Christ’s living things into palpitating shreds, that he may discover from them how better to save the same men.  Is this to be in the world as He was in the world!  Picture to yourselves one of these Christian inquirers erect before his class of students:  knife in hand, he is demonstrating to them from the live animal, so fixed and screwed and wired that he cannot find for his agony even the poor relief of a yelp, how this or that writhing nerve or twitching muscle operates in the business of a life which his demonstration has turned from the gift of love into a poisoned curse; picture to yourself such a one so busied, suddenly raising his eyes and seeing the eyes that see him! the eyes of Him who, when He hung upon the cross, knew that He suffered for the whole creation of His Father, to lift it out of darkness into light, out of wallowing chaos into order and peace!  Those eyes watching him, that pierced hand soothing his victim, would not the knife fall from his hand in the divine paralysis that shoots from the heart and conscience?  Ah me! to have those eyes upon me in any wrong-doing!  One thing only could be worse ­not to have them upon me ­to be left with my devils.

“You all know the immediate cause of the turning of our thoughts in this direction ­the sad case of cruelty that so unexpectedly rushed to light in Glaston.  So shocked was the man in whose house it took place that, as he drove from his door the unhappy youth who was guilty of the crime, this testimony, in the righteous indignation of his soul, believing, as you are aware, in no God and Father of all, broke from him with curses ­’There ought to be a God to punish such cruelty.’ ­’Begone,’ he said.  ’Never would I commit woman or child into the hands of a willful author of suffering.’

“We are to rule over the animals; the opposite of rule is torture, the final culmination of anarchy.  We slay them, and if with reason, then with right.  Therein we do them no wrong.  Yourselves will bear me witness however and always in this place, I have protested that death is no evil, save as the element of injustice may be mingled therein.  The sting of death is sin.  Death, righteously inflicted, I repeat, is the reverse of an injury.

“What if there is too much lavishment of human affection upon objects less than human! it hurts less than if there were none.  I confess that it moves with strange discomfort one who has looked upon swarms of motherless children, to see in a childless house a ruined dog, overfed, and snarling with discomfort even on the blessed throne of childhood, the lap of a woman.  But even that is better than that the woman should love no creature at all ­infinitely better!  It may be she loves as she can.  Her heart may not yet be equal to the love of a child, may be able only to cherish a creature whose oppositions are merely amusing, and whose presence, as doubtless it seems to her, gives rise to no responsibilities.  Let her love her dog ­even although her foolish treatment of him should delay the poor animal in its slow trot towards canine perfection:  she may come to love him better; she may herself through him advance to the love and the saving of a child ­who can tell?  But do not mistake me; there are women with hearts so divinely insatiable in loving, that in the mere gaps of their untiring ministration of humanity, they will fondle any living thing capable of receiving the overflow of their affection.  Let such love as they will; they can hardly err.  It is not of such that I have spoken.

“Again, to how many a lonely woman is not life made endurable, even pleasant, by the possession and the love of a devoted dog!  The man who would focus the burning glass of science upon the animal, may well mock at such a mission, and speak words contemptuous of the yellow old maid with her yellow ribbons and her yellow dog.  Nor would it change his countenance or soften his heart to be assured that that withered husk of womanhood was lovely once, and the heart in it is loving still; that she was reduced to all but misery by the self-indulgence of a brother, to whom the desolation of a sister was but a pebble to pave the way to his pleasures; that there is no one left her now to love, or to be grateful for her love, but the creature which he regards merely as a box of nature’s secrets, worthy only of being rudely ransacked for what it may contain, and thrown aside when shattered in the search.  A box he is indeed, in which lies inclosed a shining secret! ­a truth too radiant for the eyes of such a man as he; the love of a living God is in him and his fellows, ranging the world in broken incarnation, ministering to forlorn humanity in dumb yet divine service.  Who knows, in their great silence, how germane with ours may not be their share in the groanings that can not be uttered!

“Friends, there must be a hell.  If we leave scripture and human belief aside, science reveals to us that nature has her catastrophes ­that there is just so much of the failed cycle, of the unrecovered, the unbalanced, the incompleted, the fallen-short, in her motions, that the result must be collision, shattering resumption, the rage of unspeakable fire.  Our world and all the worlds of the system, are, I suppose, doomed to fall back at length into their parent furnace.  Then will come one end and another beginning.  There is many an end and many a beginning.  At one of those ends, and that not the furthest, must surely lie a hell, in which, of all sins, the sin of cruelty, under whatever pretext committed, will receive its meed from Him with whom there is no respect of persons, but who giveth to every man according to his works.  Nor will it avail him to plead that in life he never believed in such retribution; for a cruelty that would have been restrained by a fear of hell was none the less hellworthy.

“But I will not follow this track.  The general conviction of humanity will be found right against any conclusions calling themselves scientific, that go beyond the scope or the reach of science.  Neither will I presume to suggest the operation of any lex talionis in respect of cruelty.  I know little concerning the salvation by fire of which St. Paul writes in his first epistle to the Corinthians; but I say this, that if the difficulty of curing cruelty be commensurate with the horror of its nature, then verily for the cruel must the furnace of wrath be seven times heated.  Ah! for them, poor injured ones, the wrong passes away!  Friendly, lovely death, the midwife of Heaven, comes to their relief, and their pain sinks in precious peace.  But what is to be done for our brother’s soul, bespattered with the gore of innocence?  Shall the cries and moans of the torture he inflicted haunt him like an evil smell?  Shall the phantoms of exquisite and sickening pains float lambent about the fingers, and pass and repass through the heart and brain, that sent their realities quivering and burning into the souls of the speechless ones?  It has been said somewhere that the hell for the cruel man would be to have the faces of all the creatures he had wronged come staring round him, with sad, weary eyes.  But must not the divine nature, the pitiful heart of the universe, have already begun to reassert itself in him, before that would hurt him?  Upon such a man the justice in my heart desires this retribution ­to desire more would be to be more vile than he; to desire less would not be to love my brother: ­that the soul capable of such deeds shall be compelled to know the nature of its deeds in the light of the absolute Truth ­that the eternal fact shall flame out from the divine region of its own conscience until it writhe in the shame of being itself, loathe as absolute horror the deeds which it would now justify, and long for deliverance from that which it has made of itself.  The moment the discipline begins to blossom, the moment the man begins to thirst after confession and reparation, then is he once more my brother; then from an object of disgust in spite of pity, he becomes a being for all tender, honest hearts in the universe of God to love, cherish, revere.

“Meantime, you who behold with aching hearts the wrongs done to the lower brethren that ought to be cherished as those to whom less has been given, having done all, stand comforted in the thought that not one of them suffers without the loving, caring, sustaining presence of the great Father of the universe, the Father of men, the God and Father of Jesus Christ, the God of the sparrows and the ravens and the oxen ­yea, of the lilies of the field.”

As might be expected, Mrs. Ramshorn was indignant.  What right had he to desecrate a pulpit of the Church of England by misusing it for the publication of his foolish fancies about creatures that had not reason!  Of course nobody would think of being cruel to them, poor things!  But there was that silly man talking about them as if they were better Christians than any of them!  He was intruding into things he had not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.

The last portion of these remarks she made in the hearing of her niece, who carried it home for the amusement of her husband.  He said he could laugh with a good conscience, for the reading of the passage, according to the oldest manuscripts we have, was not “the things he hath not seen,” but “the things he hath seen,” and he thought it meant ­haunting the visible, the sensuous, the fleshly, so, for, the satisfaction of an earthly imagination, in love with embodiment for its own sake, worshiping angels, and not keeping hold of the invisible, the real, the true ­the mind, namely, and spirit of the living Christ, the Head.

“Poor auntie,” replied Helen, “would hold herself quite above the manuscripts.  With her it is the merest sectarianism and radicalism to meddle with the text as appointed to be read in churches.  What was good enough for the dean, must be far more than good enough for an unbeneficed curate!”

But the rector, who loved dogs and horses, was delighted with the sermon.

Faber’s whole carriage and conduct in regard to the painful matter was such as to add to Juliet’s confidence in him.  Somehow she grew more at ease in his company, and no longer took pains to avoid him.