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[218] assumption, which comes down to him from Platonism, natural religion, and Transcendentalism, that nature is a symbol of God and the moral order, is a continuing revelation of God, is sympathetic with humanity, and is parallel, analogous, and favourable to religion and morals. Often, however, he realizes to some extent, and frankly declares, as far as he realizes it, the inevitable implication of the theory of natural selection, that nature is alien to the moral strivings of man, and is thoroughly unmoral if not immoral. When he is conscious of his self-contradiction at all, Beecher seems merely puzzled by it as by one mystery among many. It would of course be fatal to his work if that work were a philosophical system—which it is not.

Despite his indecision upon this central problem, really the problem of evil itself, Beecher succeeds in giving sight and freedom to souls weighed down and blinded by the old unhappy dogma of depravity. Without denying man's sinfulness, he reverses the whole prospect of humanity by simply declaring that it is not true that men were created innocent but fell and incurred a debt which they could never hope to pay; but rather that the human race began low down, has not come up very far, and has the opportunity for limitless development upward.

Beecher's close contact with his audience and the abundance of his imagery are the sources of his peculiar power. They keep his style homely and racy (Robert South he declared to have been his chief model), and hold his thought and feeling near to human needs. He deliberately cultivated both. He carried pocketfuls of gems, which he loved to turn over and examine; he haunted picture-galleries and jewellers' shops. Like Whitman, whom he is said to have influenced, he walked the streets, spent whole days among the docks and ferry boats, made himself familiar with all sorts of trades, and talked with all sorts of people. These sources of power were also at times sources of weakness. Beecher came to depend upon hearers rather than readers; his hand faltered when he felt himself out of contact with an audience; and as he could not bring himself to revise with any degree of care the reports of his oral discourse, the form in which much of it has come to us is distinctly sub-literary. His exuberance of imagery also upon occasion betrayed him into incongruity and bathos. Yet his

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