120 History of Wake Forest College
The same law of gradual growth holds in the realm of mind also. As we rise in
the scale of organized life the nervous system acquires greater and greater
complexity, and distinctively mental traits emerge into greater and greater
prominence, until we arrive at the highest term of this marvelous series, the mind of
Plato or of Shakespeare.
Take another step, and see the same law obeyed in the multiform activities in
which the human mind expresses itself. Thomas Hobbes said that the great
"Leviathan," the commonwealth, or state, was but an artificial man, constructed by
human skill. We now know that individual men could no more construct a state than
they could originate themselves. "Constitutions are not made; they grow."
Throughout all its ramifications, in its main outlines and its minutest details, society
is a growth, not a manufacture.
And that highest function of mind-its response to the call of the Universal Spirit
who guides this progress and supplies the energy of this upward tendency-religion
itself-has developed out of rude and germinal beginnings. The revelation of God has
been of necessity progressive as being conditioned by the stage of human culture
which received it.
I do not hesitate to say that the blessing of this new view is incalcuable. Nature is
transfigured before us, being conceived as no longer static, but as dynamic and vital.
The intellectual satisfaction of finding unity and harmony in the room of the most
distressing confusion is a superlative advantage. We have here at last some light on
the problem of evil which has clouded our sky, dragged heavily upon our aspirings,
and too often mocked into inactivity our best endeavors with prophecies of defeat.
And there is, besides, the stimulating vision of a goal which convicts pessimism of
short-sightedness, for it will explain and justify the long and painful path behind us.
As to religion, no one ever laid anything unchristian to the charge
of William Louis Poteat. As near as any other man he made his life
conform to the teachings of Jesus Christ; he consecrated all his
powers to the advancement of the Kingdom of God in the world. His
service in the Wake Forest Baptist Church was exemplary almost
without parallel. This church received him by letter on October 16,
1878, and of it he was a member until his death on March 12, 1938.
One of his most striking characteristics was his devotion to his
church. For sixty years he seldom missed a service. In the earlier
years when the names of male members were called at the monthly