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altered circumstances. In both, too, we find a gradual development in time, the later additions being not mere additions, but also evolutions of that which preceded, and ever tending to what is more comprehensive and better. It would take me too long to work out and illustrate these points of analogy ; indeed each might be the subject of an essay. I mention them because they have a direct bearing upon part of my future argument.
If there be truth in the statements hitherto made, we shall be fully prepared to find that the study of Nature and of the Sacred Scriptures are mutually helpful. I propose considering the subject under the three heads of Natural Theology, Evidences of Christianity, and Methods of Interpretation.
I. NATURAL THEOLOGY.—It is needless to say much on this head, for this is a department of Divinity which depends wholly, as its name imports, on the study of Nature. The pious in all ages have loved to trace the hand of God in the visible creation, and in doing so they have only followed the example of the inspired Psalmist, or have learned of Him who “ answered Job out of the whirlwind ”—of Him who on the Galilean mount drew lessons from “the birds of the air,” and “the lilies of the field."
This habit of noticing the indications of the Supreme Intelligence may be of service also to the philosopher in his scientific pursuits. Thus, to take an illustration, a physiologist examining an eye will see its exquisite adaptation to the properties of light and the purposes of vision; but he may come across some muscle the use of which is not evident, or such an organ as the tapetum lucidum of the cat, and the conviction that this also has some
«« final cause
will probably lead him to discover the part it plays in perfecting the mechanism of sight.
Under this head of Natural Theology, may be mentioned another important service which the fuller study of Nature renders to true religion,-it clears away much rubbish; for science is the foe to superstition. The unknown or ill-understood forces of Nature beget a vague fear in the minds of the ignorant; the movements in the world around them appear the actions of spiritual beings; a roaring waterfall, a black damp cavern, a tree waving its branches in the moonlight, the sun beaming forth heat and splendour-each is inhabited by some mysterious agent, and the character of this spirit takes its hue from the character of the mind that imagines it. If the untaught man be gentle and comparatively innocent, the spirit will be a nymph or a fairy; if he be mischievous, a satyr or an elf; and if he be wicked, the mysterious being will be a demon as
licentious or as malignant as himself. I need not remind you of the multitude and variety of false religions which have these fancies for their basis. All such ghosts vanish at the sunrise of scientific truth. No man taught in modern science can any longer believe the statement of the Hindoo scriptures, that
heavenly cows hurl the destructive thunderbolt”; nor, as the lightning flashes around him, will his fear embody itself in the picture of Thor wielding his mighty hammer, or Jupiter Tonans grasping a handful of lightnings. In the mighty electric discharge he sees only one manifestation of a force which pervades all Nature, and is convertible into other forces, the varied exponents of that one Supreme Will whose wisdom ordained and whose power sustains the whole.
II. EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.–Natural Theology is not Christianity: its deductions may be perfectly true, and yet the Jewish and Christian Scriptures may be false. It seems to me, however, that the study of Nature has something also to say to this question, and that in more ways than one.
The accordance of the character of God, as we find it described in the Bible, with that deduced from Nature, is itself an argument in favour of the truth of Revelation.
The fact that the same difficulties which meet us in Revelation have their analogues in the world of sense, as shown by Bishop Butler and others, not merely serves to stop the mouths of objectors, but is of some value in establishing a common origin.
But there is a more important issue. Science sweeps away the rubbish of superstition ;-is what we deem sacred truth likewise doomed to disappear? Facts seem against such a supposition. The present century, which has seen so wondrous an extension of physical science, is marked by an increase of religious earnestness; and it seems to me that, notwithstanding some great and peculiar perils, our age has the healthy sign of a more intelligent and painstaking desire to arrive at the true meaning of the Word of God than characterized any earlier period of the Church's history. If, moreover, we turn from the effect of Natural Philosophy on an age to its effect on individuals, do we really find that the pursuit of science overthrows the belief in the Divine origin of what is recorded in the sacred writings of the Jews and Christians ? By no means. A singularly large proportion of the highest men of science of this and preceding times have been devout believers, or, at least, have acknowledged the truth of the Scriptures; while, if we descend to men of the second or third ranks, we find—at least in my experience-about the same proportion of Christians as in most other professions. It is true there are scientific men who are infidels, and at the close of last century we saw on the Continent of Europe the sad spectacle of French Encyclopædists, and other learned men, labouring to extinguish the little faith that was then to be found in the world; but it remains to be inquired whether these men were not infidels before they were philosophers; and subsequent events have shown that they raised their pæan before they had won their victory; for the Bible is read now far more than it was then, and Christ has His disciples in the halls of Continental as well as British science.
And it has not been for want of will on the part of infidels that our Sacred Writings have remained the firm foundation of the faith of Christendom. As science after science has risen into notice, they have ransacked its storehouse in search of something which they could forge into a new weapon against the old book; and even the guardians of the faith have sometimes been the first to brand some new scientific doctrine as unscriptural, or to decry the whole investigation as irreligious. As time has gone on, it has occasionally happened that the scientific doctrine proved to be a crude and erroneous conclusion; or the suspicious theory being established, it has been found that what it opposed was merely the view of some Jewish commentator or Christian poet.
The history of astronomy is instructive in this respect. When it was contended that the earth, instead of being a flat plain was a round ball, with people walking on the other side of it, the idea was denounced as unscriptural and preposterous. After this was generally received, the Copernican theory of the solar system was promulgated, and then monks preached against the new heresy, and the authorities of the Church passed these two resolutions :-" 1st. The proposition that the sun is the centre of the world, and immovable from its place, is absurd, philosophically false, and formally heretical ; because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture. 2nd. The proposition that the earth is not the centre of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurnal motion, is absurd, philosophically false, and theologically considered at least erroneous in faith.” When, however, these propositions were universally taught, even at the Roman observatory, the immense magnitudes and distances of the stars were looked upon with suspicion as reducing our globe to a mere speck in the universe, although it is the theatre of man's probation, and of the Son of God's great sacrifice. But no educated man doubts these conclusions now, and in many a sermon, as in Dr. Chalmers's Astronomical Discourses, they serve as an additional proof that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the
, firmament showeth His handywork." Yet astronomy may still have its theological battles to fight : the nebular theory of the formation of worlds seems to be offensive to some religious minds, and if it be ever established, it will be in the teeth of opposition.
I think that without presumption I may suggest an idea as to the purpose for which Providence has permitted this difficulty to stand in the way of the reception of many scientific truths. It thus becomes clear there is no collusion between the teachers of physical and theological science; it is not a sacred priesthood, as in ancient Egypt, that holds the key of the mysteries of nature; and thus the ultimate concord can scarcely be suspected of being at the expense of truth. No doubt foolish attempts have sometimes been made to twist the facts of science and the statements of the Bible into harmony, as for instance, by some of the advocates in the great case of Genesis versus Geology ; but usually the physical philosopher has calmly or boldly pursued his own line of investigation, and the theologian has inquired whether the apparent discrepancy has not arisen from a human gloss, or from a misunderstanding of the true province of revelation. And what is the result? There has been the din of battle, and the shrieks of the timid have been heard amid the shouts of the warriors : earthworks which the defenders of the faith have pushed forward have been repeatedly carried by the assailants, but the citadel of the word of God remains untaken, and its venerable walls are the more redoubtable on account of the sieges which it has withstood.
III. METHODS OF INTERPRETATION.-If two books were products of the same mind, and, especially, if they are written somewhat in the same style, we should expect that the study of the one would make us better fitted for understanding the other.
In treating of the analogies between the two branches of study here referred to, I may allude to the necessity of the mind being adapted to the reception of the particular kind of truth. This is mentioned first to obviate an objection that has probably presented itself already to the minds of some hearers, and which has, perhaps, clothed itself in the emphatic words of Paul: “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned: but he that is spiritual discerneth all things.” Indeed, ordinary reason is sufficient to teach us that if a man would apprehend the word of God, his mind must be
previously brought into unison with that of God; while experience proves abundantly that an intellectual worldling is often blind where an unlearned believer sees intuitively. And just so is it with physical science; the man who has not a loving interest in it, can never understand its doctrines, or weigh its conclusions.
Yet neither Scripture, nor logic, nor experience teaches that the spiritual mind is all that is needed on the one side, or the scientific mind all that is needed on the other side, in order to arrive at the fulness of the truth in either department of study.
Assuming then that each student is possessed of the proper receptive faculty, and a true interest in the subject, I proceed to notice several points of analogy in the temper of mind, or the intellectual processes required. The sketch will be a very rough one, and nothing more than a sketch; for the full illustration of the subject must be left till either I, or some one with greater leisure, may take up the subject in a separate treatise.
The first requisite for a successful prosecution of any inquiry into the ways of God either in Nature or Revelation, is a reverent spirit,-a desire to arrive at the truth-a remembrance that what we are studying is incomparably greater and nobler than our first impressions of it. This is surely self-evident. Flippancy is fatal to success. And here the student of each department may often learn a lesson from his brother; for, unhappily, there are theologians who think they can overthrow the careful deductions of scientific men by a few dashing remarks; while there are philosophers who anxiously inquire into the mysteries and apparent contradictions of nature, yet fling aside the Bible at the first seeming discrepancy either in its statements or (more foolish still) in the statements of its interpreters.
A proper reverence will evince itself, by the care taken to arrive at whatever is the truth, by the adoption of the best methods, and by a readiness to reconsider our views, whenever any new facts or fresh arguments appear to throw any reasonable doubt on their correctness.
Passing from this moral requirement to intellectual ones, we may remark that the first step in any process of investigation, is to ascertain the facts on which our conclusion is to be based. Now this is a most difficult thing, though, unfortunately, people often think it so easy. Thus, turning first to Nature, let any ordinary observer try to describe such a common phenomenon as the rainbow. What a string of errors his account will probably be as to its apparent height and size, its distance,