HISTORICAL EVIDENCE AS AFFECTED BY SCIENCE.
The subject of this lecture will be Historical Evidence as affected by Science, particularly the relation of Science to Christianity as affecting the evidence of its divine origin.
There is a wide-spread apprehension among many of the friends of Christianity that Science, in its progress, may set aside the evidence that the Bible is a system of revealed truth, and that, if the point is not already reached, it may soon be, when they will be found to be incompatible with each other, and when it will be impossible to reconcile them. There is probably more apprehension on this subject among the true friends of Christianity than they would like to avow to themselves or to others, and there is more dissatisfaction with the attempts which are made to remove the difficulties, and to reconcile the two, than they would think it prudent to admit. There is many a skeptical thought in a Christian's mind which he would be unwilling to utter, for he would not be desirous that his friends should know how much he is perplexed on the subject, and he would not think it right to expose the faith of others to the shock which would be felt if they knew what was passing through his mind. " Oh the temptations," said Dr. Payson," which have harassed me for the last three months! I have met with nothing like them in books. I dare not mention them to any mortal, lest they should trouble him as they have troubled me; but should I become an apostate, and write against religion, it seems to me that I could bring forward objections which would shake the faith of all the Christians in the world. What I marvel at is that the Archdeceiver has never been permitted to suggest them to some of his scribes, and have them published." " My difficulties," said he in a letter to a friend, " increase every year. There is one trial which you can not know experimentally. It is that of being obliged to preach to others when one doubts of every thing, and can scarcely believe that there is a God. All the atheistical, deistical, and heretical objections which I meet with in books, are childish babblings compared with those which Satan suggests, and which he urges upon the mind with a force which seems irresistible. Yet I am often obliged to write sermons, and to preach, when these objections beat upon me like a whirlwind, and almost distract me."* Cecil has made a similar remark: " I have read," said he, " all the most acute and serious infidel writers, and have been surprised at their poverty. The process of my mind has been such on the subject of revelation that I have often thought Satan has done more for me than for the best of them; for I have had, and would have produced, arguments that appeared to me far more weighty than any I ever found in them against revelation."f In this respect, as in others, a good man is often in the situation in which the Psalmist was, when, in deep perplexity about the justice of the divine dealings, he said, " If I say I will speak thus, behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children."—Psa. lxxiii., 15. He is therefore silent, hoping almost against hope, that his apprehensions may not be well founded, and yet not daring to push the inves
* Payson's Works, vol. i., p. 379, 380, ed. Portland, 1846.
t Works of Rev. Richard Cecil, vol. Hi., p. 110.
tigation farther himself. He is, in this respect, like the mariner who fears to examine his ship lest he should find the wood-work of the bottom eaten through, and nothing between him and the waters but the thin sheathing of copper; or the invalid who fears to have his lungs examined from the apprehension that the examiner may find there the unmistakable beginnings of a fatal disease; or the merchant who fears to examine his books from the apprehension that he will find himself to be a bankrupt. The ship, therefore, unexamined, moves on, the slight cough is borne as well as it can be, and the man of business tries to be calm under the apprehension that, if the truth were known, he would be found to be not worth a farthing.
There is a secret confident feeling on the part of not a few men devoted to scientific pursuits that all this is so, and that these fears in regard to Christianity are well founded. In not a few things, in his apprehension, the statements of the Bible and the disclosures of Science have been demonstrated to be irreconcilable, and he smiles complacently at the efforts made by the friends of religion, and especially by ministers of the Gospel, to harmonize them. He feels a confident assurance that one difficulty on the subject will succeed another, and that if a plausible solution of one discrepancy is suggested, Science will suggest a dozen where the points will be irreconcilable. He has that kind of carelessness, therefore, which a man has in playing a game of chess when he feels that, though his adversary may extricate himself out of some small difficulty in the move, yet the general course of the game is certain, and he can afford to be calm; or which the commander of the armies of the Union might have felt before Eichmond, when, though there might have been a temporary reverse, yet the great plan of the campaign was developing itself, and the final overthrow of the enemy was certain. So, it is to be feared, not a few men feel about the final overthrow of Christianity by Science. They do not exult. They do not care to use the language of triumph. They do not boast of victory: they smile within, and calmly await the result.
Under these circumstances, it becomes a very important matter to inquire what tendency, if any, there is in this direction, or what Science has done, or can do, to render the statements in the Bible incredible. The exact point for consideration on the subject may be easily understood. There are many things, it would be said, which were not regarded as incredible at an early period of the world, or which men readily received as real under the prevailing forms of belief, which Science ultimately shows to be utterly incredible, and which it removes from the faith of mankind. By the same process it may remove all that is marvelous or supernatural, and thus ultimately destroy every vestige of an argument for the divine origin of the religion.
An illustration will make this point plain. There was nothing, it would be said, in the statements of Livy about the prodigies which he records at the foundation of Rome, or in the early periods of the Roman history, which was contrary to the existing belief at that time, which the prevailing views of the nature of evidence . rendered unworthy of belief, or which was a departure from what was expected to be, and what was understood to be, the course of affairs on the earth. It was an age of the supernatural and the marvelous. The world was prepared to receive these accounts. There was universal faith in superior beings; in the fact that they often interposed directly in the affairs of men; that empires were founded, that battles were decided, and that the world was controlled by these supernatural agencies. There were no settled principles of Science contrary to the belief in prodigies, in sorcery, in divination, in necromancy, in demonology, in the reappearance of the dead.
Time has made important changes in regard to these alleged facts. It has reduced them to legends and myths, and the historical critic diminishes the number of things to be believed by mankind by the whole region of the supernatural Science has taught what may be regarded as credible and what as incredible, and the reader of Roman history no longer feels himself bound to embrace these early marvels as a part of the true history of Rome.
The same thing, it is now alleged, has occurred in regard to the record of miracles and marvels in the Bible. In the early history of the world, and at the time, and in the countries where the books of the Bible were composed, there was nothing in those miracles and marvels which was inconsistent with the prevalent modes of belief, or with the knowledge of the universe as then understood. Faith in the miraculous and the marvelous was then the normal state of belief. All that could not be explained on natural principles—and there were as yet but few things that could be thus explained—was supposed to be the result of supernatural intervention. Eclipses, comets, meteors, earthquakes, the pestilence, the storm, and the tempest—all these and similar things were supposed to be the result of direct supernatural interposition. Demonology, sorcery, astrology, witchcraft, necromancy, furnished all the explanations which men had of events lying beyond the range of ordinary experience, and the groves, the waters, the hills, the valleys became filled with supernatural influences and beings. When the Bible was composed, it is said, there was nothing inconsistent with such belief, and
nothing in its statements to shock the general faith of mankind, or to violate any of the known laws on which the world is governed. It was not then regarded as more wonderful than other things were supposed to be, and, therefore, not incredible, that God should make man from the dust of the earth ; or that He should form a woman from the rib of a man; or that a serpent should speak in human language ; or that an ass should use human speech; or that the sun and moon should be made to stand still in their course that a battle might be finished ; or that the dead should appear; or that the earth should heave, and the sun be darkened, when the Savior died.
But Science now has gone far to establish the reign of universal law, to remove these marvels from the faith of men, to displace the belief in supernatural agencies, and to bring all things under the dominion of law; and the question occurs whether all those things which were once regarded as marvelous are not now to be reduced to the same rank as the marvels in Livy, or are not to take their place on the same level as the ancient belief in sorcery, astrology, necromancy, and witchcraft. So " Rationalism" demands, and so no inconsiderable part of the scientific world is disposed to assert.
It requires now some boldness in a man who wishes to stand well in the scientific world to avow his belief in the events of this kind recorded in the Bible. There are very many scientific associations before which such a man would hesitate in an attempt to explain and vindicate the first four chapters in Genesis, and in relation to which he would prefer silence to any distinct utterance of his own opinion; and a minister of the Gospel in this age encounters a difficulty which would not have been felt in a more credulous age—than he would have done at a time when such events pervaded all history, and when faith in such events entered into the creed of all men. Some, in this state of things, prefer to be silent on the whole subject; some wait for more full developments; some tremble at the announcement of a new discovery in Science as if another prop was to be taken from the. faith; some are willing to hide the naked and offensive statements in the Bible under the garb of allegories and myths; some are willing to concede the fact that there was ignorance on the part of the sacred writers on those subjects, and they endeavor to calm down their own apprehensions by the supposition that the sacred writers were not inspired on those subjects, and were, therefore, as liable to be mistaken as other men.
The subject has become, therefore, a very important one to be examined in a consideration of the argument on the Evidences of Christianity, and any man would render a valuable service to the Christian world who could make suggestions that would calm down the anxieties of the minds of good men, and who could show that Science has not yet reached a point that need alarm the friends of the Bible.
The subject, in its highest bearings, is far beyond my ability, and were that not so, it could not be exhausted in a single Lecture. But it may be possible to suggest some thoughts on points on which the friends of Science and Revelation may have a common understanding, and which may do something to repress apprehension on the one hand, and exultation on the other. I approach this subject—as many of those whom I address will in their subsequent lives — under all the disadvantages produced by the common feeling that a minister of the Gospel is little qualified to grapple with these difficulties ; that his studies lie apart from those which are pursued in the schools of Science; that in no one of the sciences can he be supposed to be as much at home as he is in his own particular department, or as a scientific man is in his; and perhaps it would be urged with special force—and I certainly feel and admit that consideration fully in my own case—that a man who received his education nearly half a century ago, and then an imperfect one, can not be supposed, in the active pursuits of another profession, to have kept pace with the advancements of Science in that remarkable half century, or to be competent to speak to those who have devoted their lives to those pursuits. All this I feel and admit; and yet, on the other hand, it may ba that something has occurred to such a man in his own reading and profession, as bearing on the subject, which may not have occurred to one engrossed in another profession as he has been in his.
I shall, therefore, submit some remarks to you designed to illustrate the relation of Science to Christianity as affecting, in the nineteenth century, the evidence of its truth.
I . There must be entire harmony between the proper deductions of Science and a revelation from God. On • most of the subjects of revelation, indeed, it is to be presumed that the communications made would be such as not to admit of comparison with what Science teaches, for it must be presumed that, if a revelation is given at all, it will be, for the most part, on subjects which lie beyond the range of man's natural powers, and the points of actual contact on the high themes of theology and the disclosures of Science must therefore be few. In fact, in a revelation from God designed to guide man in the duties of religion and in a preparation for another world—which must be the main design of a revelation—it is to be presumed that the points of contact would be mostly incidental. Revelation is not given to teach geography, geology, anatomy, astronomy, chemistry, but religion.
Still, it is right to assume and to demand that, where there are any statements in a book that claims to be a revelation from God, on the subjects of Science, incidental or otherwise, they must and will be in accordance with what is disclosed by an accurate investigation of the works of God. The friends of revelation must admit this; the enemies of revelation may hold them to it.
This position is self-evident and indisputable except on a supposition which the friends of Science will not allow us to make, and which we have no right and no desire to make, that the Maker of the world, according to the doctrine of the Manichees, was a different Being from the Supreme God. In such a case, indeed, under the dualistic system of Zoroaster and the Manichees, it would be conceivable that a direct revelation from the Supreme Being might contain principles not reconcilable with the facts which Science would exhibit as derived from the actual creation. There is, indeed, another supposition which may be adverted to, where the same result would follow—that there is something in God which is not properly expressed in the works of creation, in the course of events, or in our moral nature, but that, when those higher things in God are understood, they will reverse many of our conceptions now of that which is right and that which is wrong; of that which is true and that which is false; of that which is to be loved and of that which is hated. Such an idea has been suggested by one of no less authority than Mansel.
But we can not be at liberty to avail ourselves of this idea in extricating ourselves from any difficulty arising from the conflict of revealed religion and Science, for right is right, and wrong is wrong, every where, and we can not believe that the Great Creator Has stamped upon the intellect and the conscience of men a universal lie, so creating them that they are under a necessity of believing that to be right which he knows to be wrong, and which he himself knows they will ultimately perceive to be wrong, and, therefore, we are shut up to the necessity of admitting and maintaining that between a true revelation and the fair deductions of Science there must be harmony. This idea, moreover, we urge in all our endeavors to overthrow the false religions of the heathen, and of this we purpose, in our missionary efforts, to make great use in showing that the books among them which claim to be a revelation can not be from the true God.
The enemies of the Christian religion may therefore hold us to this, and may insist on it, that if the statements in the Bible are contradictory to the disclosures of Science, and can not by fair means be shown to be in harmony with them, the Bible must be given up in its pretensions to being a revelation from God.
LT. A second principle may be stated as indisputable, that the deductions of Science are to be admitted as true, wherever they may lead, or on whatever they may impinge.
This principle, also, is so clear that it is difficult to make it more plain by any illustration. We are so made that we must admit this; all our plans, and all our hopes, are based on this. All that, as friends of religion, we have a right to demand on the subject is, that the things which we are to believe, which may or may not affect religion, shall be true deductions of Science. They must not be mere theories; they must not be conclusions based on a partial and imperfect observation of the facts in the case; they must not be views embraced manifestly with a purpose to destroy the credit of revelation; they must be points about which there can be no dispute, and in reference to which there will be no presumption that time and farther observation will set them aside. If the belief of the forty-seventh proposition of the first book of Euclid will destroy the faith of mankind in the Bible, be it so. We can not help it. But it is to be observed, on the other side, that there have been a thousand things assumed to be scientific truths, and which were in conflict with the statements of revelation, which time, better instruments, and farther investigation have shown to be false.
It is to be admitted and expected that Science, in its progress, will set aside many things existing in the world pertaining to common matters, and it is not less to be presumed that it will set aside many things that have been supposed to be connected with religion, and that this may at the time shock or shake the faith of many believers in the Bible, as if all were lost. Thus a good axe or hoe, made on scientific principles, sets aside those which may have been long in use; the printingpress set aside the apparatus for copying; the powerloom sets aside the hand-loom; the spinning-jenny sets aside the domestic wheel; the reaping machine sets aside the sickle and the scythe; the sewing machine sets aside, to a large extent, the common use of the needle.
In like manner, books are set aside as valueless except as records of history. Every new discovery renders the old book of less value, until it becomes worthless. Galen and Hippocrates cease to be of value in medicine; Mela and Strabo in geography; and Ptolemy in astronomy. Thus old machines, old books, Indian relics, and suits of ancient armor, become fit occupants of old libraries and of museums—the lumber, the debris of former times. The very fact that a book is " rare" is prima facie proof that it has been superseded by something better, and is worthless; and every writer on Science, and most of those on any subject in literature, must lay his account with the expectation that in that very department some man will make a brighter discovery, or write a better book, that will place what he has done among the things that the world will "willingly let die." Scientific men must accept this, and must toil on in their generation with the feeling that this is to be the end of their labors.
The same principle is applicable to religion. As in its own proper department Science makes its way regardless of opinions before held, and reputations won, and glory deemed to be immortal, and garlands that were supposed to be unfading, and patents secured, and money invested, and corporations strong and powerful, so Science will make its way on whatever it may impinge, however it may affect the faith of men, whatever it may do in disrobing priests and throwing down altars, and changing temples of worship to other purposes, and disturbing established investments, and whatever ruins it may strew in its path.
The religious part of the world must make up its mind to accept all the disclosures of true Science, however they may impinge on its articles of faith. If the facts of Science are hopelessly irreconcilable with the statements of the Bible, but one result can follow. The Bible will be abandoned. The truths of Science will stand. At first it will be abandoned by the scientific world, and then it will retain what hold it can be made to retain on the masses of men as the result of educa-* tion, or tradition, or priestly power, or the conscious want of some religion; but, sooner or later, though slowly, it will lose its hold on mankind, as the belief in necromancy, demonology, sorcery, witchcraft, and magic, was at first embraced by all men, and then, as Science advanced, lost their hold on those who were capable of explaining the phenomena of the world on scientific principles, retaining still their hold on the masses, until Science, diffused every where, removes all faith in sorcery and magic from the world.
HI. In forming a correct estimate on this subject, there are, however, certain things to be taken into the account, of which the friends of religion have a right to avail themselves, and to demand that they shall be regarded as important elements in determining the judgment of mankind.
(1.) One of those things is the uncertainty of Science, at least as bearing on the points at issue between science and revelation.
It may startle some to hear the expression," the uncertainty of Science." It may demand some boldness, and may do not a little to peril a man's reputation, to use such an expression. We have been so much accustomed to the word "exact" as connected with the sciences, and have been so taught to believe that a mathematical demonstration must be absolutely certain, and have hence so hastily applied the same idea to all other demonstrations in Science, that we have learned to confine the words "moral" or "probable" as applied to evidence, to other subjects altogether, and hence it has come to be understood that an important distinction, in this respect, is to be made between the evidence of a scientific proposition and that for a revelation: the words " exact" and " certain" to be applied exclusively to the one; the words " moral" and " probable" only belonging to the other.
But, on this subject, it is important that such things as the following should be borne in mind:
(a) When we look at the past in history, what is more vague and uncertain than the " sciences" as they have been held among men ? What " science" now is the same that it was two thousand years ago ? What has been more shifting, undefined, and unstable than the " sciences" as they have been actually held ? Let any man read so common a book as WheweWs " History of the Inductive Sciences," and instead of rising from the perusal with the idea that Science is "exact," "certain," and " stable," he will be much more likely to institute a comparison between it and the ever-changing sands on the shores of the ocean than with the fixed and everlasting hills.
And again: On what points, outside of the small circle of the mathematical demonstrations, is Science " certain?" What is light? What is matter? What is galvanism ? What is gravitation ? What is attraction ? What is heat ? What is life ? How many are the original elements of matter ? In what proportions do they combine, and by what power are they held in combination? How many are the worlds that roll above us? What is the duration of our own globe ? When, and how was it formed and moulded ? And what " exact" changes has it undergone ? Is there any one of these and numberless kindred points on which the views of scientific men are settled and " certain?" Is there any one on which there are not as many different and shadowy opinions as there are on the doctrine of the Trinity or Incarnation ? On the one subject of geology so early as the year 1806, the French Institute counted more than eighty theories hostile to Scripture history, not one of which has stood to the present day. How many such theories have appeared and vanished since?
(b) And what is the range of scientific knowledge ? How soon does man get to the extent of his faculties, and what vast oceans of knowledge lie now unexplored, as in the time of Newton ? In one sense the knowledge of man is indeed vast, and all the epithets which we can use in describing it are deserved. But what does man know f He sees but a little way around him, and beyond all is dark. What does he know of the distant worlds ? What does he know of the sun, or the moon, or the planets, or the fixed stars, or the comets ? What is their history ? What their compositions ? What the character of their inhabitants, if they have any ? What can he tell about the nearest fixed star? It is not a knowledge of that star to be able to determine its " parallax," or to be able to determine that the ray of light that comes to our eyes from that star, informing us of its existence, has been traveling twenty thousand years to give us the information, and that therefore the star itself may have ceased to exist twenty thousand years ago. And of the worlds beyond such a star what does man know ? The truth is, that we have but just opened our eyes on a universe that in its creation demanded all the power and the wisdom of an Infinite God. Man— the wisest man—the man of farthest grasp—the man who has accumulated most, has but just left his cradle. But a few days ago he knew not any thing, not even the name of father or mother. He could neither speak nor stand. He knew not that a candle would burn his finger if he put it there. By slow degrees he learned to creep, and then to walk. He began to utter sounds which were kindly construed into language. He lisped, and hesitated, and then achieved a great victory by being able to utter a few simple monosyllables. And then how soon he thinks that he knows all about the universe so vast, and the God who made it. Thus a fine writer, speaking of the sum of Physical Science, says:
"Compared with the comprehensible universe and with conceivable time, not to speak of infinity and eternity, it is the observation of a mere point, the experience of an instant. Are we warranted in founding any thing upon such data, except that which we are obliged to found on them, the daily rules and processes necessary for the natural life of man ? We call the discoveries of Science sublime; and truly. But the sublimity belongs not to that which they reveal, but to that which they suggest. And that which they suggest is, that through this material glory and beauty, of which we see a little and imagine more, there speaks to us a Being whose nature is akin to ours, and who has made our hearts capable of such converse. Astronomy has its practical uses, without which man's intellect would hardly rouse itself to those speculations; but its greatest result is a revelation of immensity pervaded by one informing mind, and this revelation is made by astronomy only in the same sense in which the telescope reveals the stars to the eye of the astronomer. Science finds no law for the thoughts which, with her aid, are ministered to man by the starry skies. Science can explain the hues of sunset, but she can not tell from what urns of pain and pleasure its pensiveness- is poured. These things are felt by all men—felt the more in proportion as the mind is higher. They are a part of human nature; and why should they not be as sound a basis for philosophy as any other part ? But if they are, the solid wall of material law melts away, and through the whole order of the material world pours the influence, the personal influence, of a spirit corresponding to our own.
"Again, is it true that the fixed or the unvarying is the last revelation of Science ? These risings in the scale of created beings, this gradual evolution of planetary systems from their centre, do they bespeak mere creative force ? Do they not rather bespeak something which, for want of an adequate word, we must call creative effort, corresponding to the effort by which man raises himself and his estate ? And where effort can be discovered, does not spirit reign again ?
"A creature whose sphere of vision is a speck, whose experience is a second, sees the pencil of Raphael moving over the canvas of the Transfiguration; it sees the pencil moving over its own speck, during its own second of existence, in one particular direction, and it concludes that the formula expressing that direction is the secret of the whole."*
(e) Again, it is to be borne in mind that there are subjects of knowledge, and they may be most momentous in their nature, that lie wholly beyond the range of Physical Science, and must ever lie there. Science has its sphere; beyond that sphere it has no instruments, no knowledge.
The great subjects of theology are of this character, and must ever be. The anatomist and the chemist do not profess to teach theology; nor do they teach it. Their investigations throw no light on the doctrine of the immortality of the soul; on the questions about a * Lectures on the Study of History, by Goldwin Smith, pp. 86-88.
future state; on the inquiry how a sinner may be reconciled to God. The electrial machine throws out no light on those subjects; the scalpel of the anatomist does not even disclose the source of life; the glass of the astronomer does not penetrate far enough into the distant ether to reveal the throne of God. How far, then, Science should presume to speak of that which is wholly beyond its range, may be a fair question. How far it should sit in judgment on that which lies wholly without its sphere, is an equally fair question. Geology, chemistry, metallurgy, have their sphere—wide, noble, honorable ; but the atonement, the incarnation, the Trinity, the fall of man, the work of redemption, pertain to another sphere, not less wide, noble, honorable. Each one in its place.* Each one to be honored. Each one to contribute any thing, every thing it can to the other, and to the whole; but each one to be confined to its proper sphere.
It may yet be seen that there is a " division of labor" in the departments of human action more wide than is commonly supposed to be implied in that modern discovery of wisdom. Each pin-maker labors in his own department, and the man who makes the head does not interfere with him who cuts the wire, or him who sharpens the point; each gun-maker labors in his own department, and he who makes the stock does not interfere with him who makes the barrel, or the rod, or the bayonet, or the hammer to the lock. All work in harmony; all contribute to the result, for the work of one fits into the work of another, as if all were the work of one man.
It is certain that in Science each department will communicate nothing but that which pertains to itself; that chemistry is not to be learned in the dissecting* Ne sutor supra crepidam.—Plin.
room of the anatomist, or music by the telescope, or moral philosophy by the examination of fossils; and it is equally certain that none of those sciences will communicate to man what he needs to know about the immortality of the soul; that the question about the resurrection of the dead is not to be decided by an examination of the rocks; that the blow-pipe of the chemist, and the hammer of the geologist, do not reveal to a sinner the way of salvation.
(d) Again, the past experience of the world should be allowed to teach men of science modesty and caution. It should not be forgotten that there is no opinion so extravagant and wild that it has not been at some time embraced by philosophers, by men of science ;* and it should not be forgotten that a very large part of the doctrines held in science in past times have been found by more accurate observation to be absurd, and have been dropped by the way, and are now numbered and classified with the huge monsters—themselves not less monstrous — the ichthyosaurians and the plethiosaurians of the old geological periods of our world's history. It is to be remembered, also, that the world has gone through a long experience on the very subject now before us, the bearing of Science on revelation, and that not one new discovery has been made in Science which has not at the time been supposed to impinge on some doctrine of revealed religion, and which has not caused momentary alarm to the friends of religion, and momentary triumph to its foes. Yet Christianity has survived them all.f So it may be in regard to the sciences
* Nihil tam absurde potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum.—Cicero, de Divinatione, ii., 58.
t See this admirably illustrated in Wiseman's Lectures on Science and Revealed Religion, ed. Andover, 1837.
as understood now, and to those which remain to be disclosed in the advancing periods of the world.
(e) One other thing may be adverted to. It may be that the facts of Science are not as well established as they are claimed to be. Which of them is, in fact, settled ? Which of them is complete and perfect ? Is geology ? It is, as yet, in the cradle. Is astronomy ? How little of the universe is surveyed and known. Is chemistry? What chemist is there who stops where he is, and supposes that his work is perfect, and that nothing remains to be known? Is anatomy? What anatomist lays down his scalpel, and feels that all stimulus to future discovery has ended? What book is there on any of the subjects of Science which can be safely stereotyped? What man is there who can feel assured that his profoundest speculations of this year will not be classed next year with the almanac which has had its day? The young men of each generation are stimulated to make attainments in Science, because there are vast fields yet unexplored; the traveler in unknown lands is cheered because a vast and inviting field is before him which the foot of man has never trod, and as he passes on in his obstructed way through fields of flowers new to the eye of man, and ascends streams on which man has never glided, and climbs the mountain-top on which a human being has never before stood, and looks abroad on rich valleys that still invite him, he is animated and excited by the fact that all this is unknown, nor would he thank any one, not even his Maker, to disclose all this to his view, and to stifle the ardor derived from the hope of future discoveries. So many a patient student of the heavens each night, when most mortal eyes are locked in slumber, is looking out from the watch-tower—the " observatory"—surveying the heavens with the hope that some new star may be seen on which the eye of man has never rested, that shall solve some discrepancy of Science, or whose discovery may perchance place his name by the side of that of LeVerrier.
IV. A very material inquiry therefore meets us here. It is, What are we to expect on this subject ? What have we a right to demand in a book submitting itself to us as a revelation from God ? Suppose the scientific man entertains for a moment the idea that a " book-revelation" could be made, or that God would impart truths directly by inspiration beyond what man can discover by his unaided powers, what would he have a right to demand or expect ? And how far would such a reasonable expectation correspond with what actually occurs in regard to the Bible ?
It is not difficult to answer these questions. .
(1.) We should expect—we should feel ourselves authorized to demand, in the sense that we could not receive it as a revelation otherwise—that the revelation should not contradict the disclosures of Science, as we expect that the disclosures made by the telescope will not contradict those made by the naked eye. The telescope, under the laws of vision, simply carries the vision farther, and extends it into regions beyond the natural range of the eye. But we anticipate this in regard to its disclosures, that while it reveals new worlds, it will reveal them as subject to the same laws which reign within the scope of our natural vision, and that we shall not, however vast may be the extent of our aided vision, or however deep we plunge into the distant ether, be conducted into the empire of another God. Such is the fact. The distant worlds, however far from us, and however vast, are subject to the same laws of light and motion which are observed on our own planet; nor even when we have passed our own solar system, and the nebula to which it belongs, and contemplate more vast and distant nebulae, that seem to float as independent systems or universes, wholly separated from ours, do we come into the dominion of another Creator and another God.
So we expect of revelation. If God has given two books to men, the book of nature and the book of grace, a revelation through his works and an independent " book"-revelation by his word, we expect, we demand that they shall be reconcilable with each other. And, unless this is done, we are so made that we can not receive the latter.
(2.) We should expect that such a revelation would be confined mainly to the subject of religion. It is true that in such a revelation the truths of Science might have been disclosed as well as the truths of religion, for all this knowledge is in the mind of God, and he might have revealed a system of botany, or mineralogy, or anatomy, or chemistry, or astronomy that would have been perfect. But there were reasons which could easily be suggested why it was not desirable or wise that this should be; why the discoveries on these subjects should be left to the investigations of men themselves, and why they should be developed when the condition of the world would be such that society would be prepared for them, and when the world would appreciate them. There were reasons why the art of working metals should to some extent be known in the time of Tubal-Cain (Gen., iv., 22), but what would have been the value of a revelation of the use of the steam-engine, of the art of printing, or of the magnetic telegraph at that age of the world ? It was wise and best that, when the world was prepared by its ordinary developments to be lifted to a higher level, men of extraordinary genius should be raised up to strike out the new inventions that would be demanded at that period of the world, for the real progress of the race would be better accomplished in this way than by a direct revelation from heaven. It was not for the good of the race, as I have endeavored to show in a former Lecture, that, on subjects which properly lie within the range of the human faculties, the knowledge which is needful for man should be communicated by a direct revelation from God, and hence what we should anticipate in such a revelation would be that it would be mainly confined to the subject of religion. In fact, it has never been made an objection to the Bible as a professed revelation that it does not deal with the subjects of Science, and does not claim to be an arbiter in its mooted questions.
(3.) We should expect and demand in a revelation that if there were incidental allusions or references to other subjects than the main subject of religion, they would be so made as to be in harmony with the information obtained on those subjects from other sources, or be susceptible of reconciliation with them. A skeptic would have a right to demand this; our own nature, as we are made, requires it. We act on this principle in the attempt to propagate our religion, and to set aside the revelations of other religions, and we regard it as a sufficient proof that they are false if we can show that they contradict the statenents of true Science.
(4.) Yet it could not be claimed that there should be no apparent conflict between the two. We do not go very far in the pursuit of .knowledge on any scientific subject, on any question of history, on any matter of
philosophy, without finding that there is an apparent conflict between the disclosures made to us and the things already known or believed; and I need not say that a very material part of scientific study consists in the work of reconciling one thing with another, or in showing that there is real harmony where there is apparent discord. How slow and toilsome has been the process of reconciling the Copernican theory in regard to the movements of the heavenly bodies with admitted facts, or of reconciling the theory with apparent irregularities. And when has a new discovery been made that did not require a new adjustment ? How long did astronomers wait, how deeply were they perplexed, in regard to certain irregularities in the planet Uranus, that was supposed to be the most remote in the system, until Le Verrier and Adams suggested that there was still another, sunk deeper in the depths of space, and as yet unknown, whose existence, size, and movements might reconcile and harmonize all ?
(5.) Once more. On the subjects pertaining to Science in such a revelation, we should expect that the statements made would be in the common language used by men, and not in technical scientific terms. The reasons for this are obvious. Such truths could be made intelligible only by such language, and such language is used by scientific men themselves, even on subjects where they have the most accurate definitions. No greater jargon could be imagined—surpassing in apparent unintelligibleness and nonsense what occurred at Babel—than would be an attempt to hold conversation in the technical language of chemistry, of anatomy, or of medicine, and there is no surer proof of pedantry than such an attempt. " Language," said Talleyrand, " is for the purpose of concealing ideas;" and a revelation in scientific language would accomplish that beyond even the language of German transcendentalists. What would be the language of the world if reduced to scientific terms ? By what cumbersome and unintelligible technicalities would men describe the rising or the setting of the sun, or the operations of walking, and seeing, and hearing, and eating, and cooking ? Who could understand any thing of a rose if the technical language of botanists only were used, or of water, air, or earth, if only the technical language of chemistry were employed ? In the words of Kepler: " Astronomy unfolds the causes of natural things; it professedly investigates optical illusions. Astronomers do not pursue this science with the design of uttering language. We say, with the common people, the planets stand still or go down; the sun rises and sets. How much less should we require that the Scriptures of divine inspiration, setting aside the common modes of speech, should shape their words according to the model of the natural sciences, and, by employing a dark and inappropriate phraseology about things which surpass the comprehension of those whom it designs to instruct, perplex the simple people of God, and thus obstruct its own way toward the attainment of the far more exalted object at which it aims."*
V. It is a very material question now, How far Science has affected the evidences of the truth of Christianity ; how far it has rendered the proofs of its divine origin commonly relied on uncertain or doubtful; how far, if at all, it has rendered them valueless ?
This is a very large subject—too large to be considered in the little time now remaining in this Lecture; and as, in some form, it will occur more than once * Quoted in Lee on Inspiration, p. 370.
again in this course, a few suggestions only need now be made.
The inquiry pertains to two points: What Science has removed that was once supposed to be a part of revelation; and Whether it has affected that which is a real part of revelation, and which properly belongs to it.
On the first of these points we now go hand in hand with the skeptic and the doubter. Science has done much, and perhaps the progress of civilization more, in detaching from religion, and, if I may so say, from the Bible—that is, from the Bible as it was formerly interpreted—much that would now, if it properly pertained to the Bible, be fatal to any claims to a divine origin. The Christian world has been indeed shocked and alarmed as one after another of these things has been assailed, for it was supposed that they were essential to religion; that they were incorporated in the Bible, and that they were always to be regarded as essential points of the Christian faith. The assault on these things has been supposed to be an assault made by infidelity; the skepticism produced in regard to them has been feared to be on the one hand, and claimed to be on the other, the triumph of skepticism. But Science, in its progress, has disabused the minds of men on these subjects, and has thus, in fact, been a helper, and not a hinderer, in embracing the evidences of Christianity—an auxiliary, and not a foe—for it has shown that in receiving the Bible men are not required to embrace what was once regarded as essential to the faith. The question which remains for solution, and which is agitated in this age, is, How far this is to go, and whether all that is supernatural and miraculous in the Scriptures is to be given up at the demand of Science, in order that religion may commend itself to the faith of mankind.
The history on this subject is, in fact, the history of " Rationalism," in the broadest and best sense of that term. The subject has occupied and is occupying the attention of minds, partly among Christians and partly among skeptics, which must be admitted to be abundantly competent to grapple with it. Coleridge, among those that speak our language, perhaps began it; Sir David Brewster did much to disabuse the minds of men on the subject, and to relieve Christianity of a burden, in his " History of MagTc ;" Germany has made it prominent in its inquiries; Dr. Channing and Theodore Parker lent their aid to it in their way; and Buckle and Lecky, with different aims, have traced elaborately the course of thought in the history of the world on the subject.*
The sum is this: In the early periods of the world all things were full of marvels and wonders; all things not understood, and few things were supposed to be understood, were under the control of the supernatural. An eclipse was a prodigy, a miracle wrought for some special purpose; the plague and pestilence were prodigies brought upon men for special purposes; the gods constantly appeared acting in human affairs; the stars, by a potent influence, presided over the birth and death of individuals; the dead reappeared, and it was possible to make a compact with them for good or evil purposes ; the groves, the hills, the streams, were full of dryads, and nymphs, and fauns; and the belief in charms
*Probably the best and most reliable history on the subject, as it is certainly the best written, is Lecky's " History of the Bise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe."
and incantations, in sorcery and witchcraft, was universal.
Time, science, and civilization have scattered most of these delusions, and have reduced to regular laws most of what was supposed to belong to the supernatural. The naiads, and fauns, and nymphs have disappeared; the groves have been unpeopled except in poetry; the belief in sorcery and witchcraft has been banished from the world; and the belief is cherished, and the hope entertained by those who have been most active in disenchanting the world, that aM that has occurred, or that does now occur in our world, may be traced to regular and fixed laws, excluding the supernatural altogether.
It is not difficult to understand what the tendency of this process is, or what effect it is likely to have on large classes of mind in regard to the miraculous and the supernatural in the Bible. The real question is whether this shall extend to all the events that have occurred in our world; whether all the facts that have taken place, including those which have occurred in connection with events claimed to be miraculous, can be reduced to regular laws; and whether all which can not be so reduced shall not at once be regarded as delusion and imposture. Science and civilization having done so much to drive sorcery, and magic, and witchcraft, and astrology, and necromancy, and superstition from the world, and having gone so far to establish the reign of regular law, the question is whether the triumph is not to be completed, and whether any thing is to be left for direct divine intervention, and whether we may not arrive at a point, or have not already reached it, when it may be assumed as a maxim in Science that any thing claiming to be miraculous is at once to be rejected. Strauss reached that conclu; sion: " We may," says he, " summarily reject all miracles, prophecies, narratives of angels and demons, and the like, as simply impossible and irreconcilable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events."* The tendency on this subject no one can doubt. That tendency has been described at length by one who can not be supposed to have any wish in that direction, but who has traced, with the hand of a master, the process by which the world has reached its present position in regard to the miraculous and the supernatural. Among other things he says: " Men are prepared to admit almost any conceivable concurrence of natural improbabilities rather than resort to the hypothesis of supernatural interference; and this spirit is exhibited not merely by open skeptics, but by men who are sincere, though perhaps not very fervent believers in their church. It is the prevailing characteristic of that vast body of educated persons whose lives are chiefly spent in secular pursuits, and who, while they receive with uninquiring faith the great doctrines of Catholicism, and duly perform its leading duties, derive their mental tone and coloring from the general spirit of their age. If you speak to them on the subject they will reply with a shrug and a smile." "If we put aside the clergy and those who are most immediately under their influence, we find that this habit of mind [among the Roman Catholics] is the invariable concomitant of « education, and is the especial characteristic of those persons whose intellectual sympathies are most extended, and who therefore represent most faithfully the various intellectual influences of their time." "All history shows that in exact proportion as nations ad* Introduction to the Life of Jesus.
vance in civilization, the accounts of miracles taking place among them become rarer and rarer, until at last they entirely cease." These facts " show that the repugnance of men to believe miraculous narratives is in direct proportion to the progress of civilization and the diffusion of knowledge." " The plain fact is, that the progress of civilization produces invariably a certain tone and habit of thought which makes men recoil from miraculous narratives with an instinctive and immediate repugnance, as though they were essentially incredible, independently of any definite arguments, and in spite of dogmatic teaching." " Generation after generation, the province of the miraculous has contracted, and the circle of skepticism has expanded. Of the two great divisions of these events, one has completely perished. Witchcraft, and diabolical possession, and diabolical disease have long since passed into the region of fables. To disbelieve them was at first the eccentricity of a few isolated thinkers; it was then the distinction of the educated classes in the most advanced nations; it is now the common sentiment of all classes in all countries of Europe. The countless miracles that were once associated with every relic and with every village shrine have rapidly and silently disappeared. Year by year the incredulity became more manifest, even where the theological profession was unchanged. Their numbers continually lessened until they at last almost ceased, and any attempt to revive them has been treated with a general and undisguised contempt. The miracles of the fathers are passed over with an incredulous scorn or with a significant silence. The rationalistic spirit has even attempted to explain away those which are recorded in Scripture, and it has materially altered their position in the systems of theology. In all countries, in all churches, in all parties, among men of every variety of character and opinion, we have found the tendency existing. In each nation its development has been a measure of intellectual activity, and has passed in regular course through the different strata of society. During the last century it has advanced with a vastly accelerated rapidity; the old lines of demarcation have been every where obscured, and the spirit of Rationalism has become the great centre to which the intellect of Europe is manifestly tending. If we trace the progress of the movement from its origin to the present day, we find that it has completely altered the whole aspect and complexion of religion. When it began, Christianity was regarded as a system entirely beyond the range and scope of human reason; it was impious to question; it was impious to examine; it was impious to discriminate. On the other hand, it was visibly instinct with the supernatural. Miracles of every order and degree of magnitude were flashing forth incessantly from all its parts. They excited no skepticism and no surprise. The miraculous element pervaded all literature, explained all difficulties, consecrated all doctrines. Every unusual phenomenon was immediately referred to a supernatural agency, not because there was a passion for the improbable, but because such an explanation seemed far more simple and easy of belief than the obscure theories of Science. In the present day Christianity is regarded as a system which courts the strictest investigation, and which, among many other functions, was designed to vivify and stimulate all the energies of man. The idea of the miraculous, which a superficial observer might have once deemed its most prominent characteristic, has been driven from almost all its intrenchments, and now quivers faintly and feebly through the mists of eighteen hundred years."*
The friends of Christianity who still retain their faith in the miraculous do not deny that Science and civilization have done much to change the views of the world in regard to the marvelous, and that they have done much to disprove what was once held to be taught in the Bible. At the same time, however, the progress of a more correct exegesis has shown that many of these things are not taught in the Bible, and thus religion has been delivered from a burden which in the present state of the world it would not have been able to bear; for we could not now go before the world with the defense of witchcraft or sorcery as once held; or with the views of Turretin in regard to the creation, as, in his apprehension, taught in the Scriptures ;f or with the views of Cosmas, of the sixth century, in regard to the structure of the universe.J
* Leclcy, History of Rationalism, vol. i., p. 160, 161, 162, 194,195.
t " First," he remarks, " the sun is said in Scripture to move in the heavens, and to rise and set. ' The sun is as a bridegroom coming out of his chambers, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.' 'The sun knoweth his going down.' 'The sun ariseth, and the sun goeth down.' Secondly, The sun, by a miracle, stood still in the time of Joshua, and by a miracle it went back in the time of Hezekiah. Thirdly, The earth is said to be fixed immovably. 'The earth also is established, that it can not be moved.' 'Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.' ' They continue this day according to thine ordinances.' Fourthly, Neither could birds, which often fly off through an hour's circuit, be able to return to their nests. Fifthly, Whatever flies or is suspended in the air ought by this theory to move from west to east; but this is proved not to be true, from birds, arrows shot forth, atoms made manifest in the sun, and down floating in the atmosphere."
% "According to Cosmas, the world is a flat parallelogram. Its length, which should bo measured from east to west, is the double
How far this is to proceed is now the great question between the friends and the enemies of the Bible—the one claiming that, the miraculous and the supernatural are not to be abandoned; the other that nothing shall be received and believed by men which can not be explained by established and unvarying law. Here is to be the battle-ground of this generation, and perhaps of the next; for this warfare men are girding on their armor; for this conflict, as much as for any other, the young men who are preparing for the ministry must be prepared.
The great questions which now lie open, and which are, in their relations to Christianity and Science, to be examined and determined, are substantially these: The creation of the world—whether it was, in fact, created at all, as stated in the Bible, and in the order affirmed in the first chapter of Genesis; the antiquity of the human race — whether man existed upon the earth at
of its breadth, which should be measured from north to south. In the centre is the earth we inhabit, which is surrounded by the ocean ; and this again is encircled by another earth, in which men lived before the deluge, and from which Noah was transported in the ark. To the north of the world is a high conical mountain, around wliich the sun and moon continually revolve. When the sun is hid behind the mountain, it is night; when it is on one side of the mountain, it is day. To the edges of the outer earth the sky is glued. It consists of four high walls rising to a great height, and then meeting in a vast concave roof, thus forming an immense edifice, of which our world is the floor. This edifice is divided into two stories by the firmament) which is placed between the earth and the roof of the sky. A great ocean is inserted in the side of the firniament remote from the earth. This is what is signified by the waters that are above the firmament. The space from these waters to the roof of the sky is allotted to the blest; that from the firmament to our earth to the angels, in their character of ministering spirits."—Leehj, History of Rationalism, vol. i., p. 277.
a period anterior to that which is fairly implied in the Bible; the origin of the race — whether the different types of men upon the earth have a common origin, and have been derived from a single pair, as is affirmed in the Bible, or whether men have sprung up in different centres, either as developed from inferior orders of creatures, or from independent created " heads" of the different races, the Caucasian, the Mongolian, the Ethiopian, the American ; and the whole question of miracles—whether they are possible; whether a miracle can be believed, or whether the laws of nature are so fixed and unchanging that there never has been, and never can be, sufficient evidence of the direct interposition of the divine power to justify the belief that those laws have ever been set aside.
It remains now to be said that, whatever may be hereafter, Science has furnished no demonstrations on these points which should give the friends of religion real cause of alarm. It has not yet been demonstrated that the universe was not created, and in the order described by Moses; it has not yet been proved that man has been upon the earth for a period longer than that assigned by a fair interpretation of the Scripture record; it has not been shown that the races of men did not descend from a single pair; and the point has not yet been established that God has never interposed, since the creation, by his own direct power in controlling the condition of the world; that the sun and moon did not stand still at the command of Joshua; that Christ did not still the tempest by a word; that he did not recall Lazarus to life; that he did not himself rise from the dead and ascend to heaven. Science has not yet brought these alleged facts within its range, nor has it demonstrated that these facts could not be proved by proper historical testimony. These are not settled points in Science, as Kepler's great laws of motion are, or Newton's law of gravitation is. When they become such, and not till then, will there be a real conflict between Science and the teachings of the Bible. So matters stand on this subject in this nineteenth century.
The course of events thus far, while it has removed many imaginary things from the Bible, and relieved us from much that encumbered and embarrassed the argument for the truth of revelation—as it has removed many imaginary things from the secular history of the past, and has relieved us from many things that perplexed and embarrassed us in regard to past events— has, as yet, removed none of the real things affirmed in the Bible, and which, by just laws of exegesis, we are bound to maintain, as, on the parallel subject of secular history, it has not affected, and can not affect, the real events which belong to history. The future we can not anticipate. The past, at least, is secure. What Science is yet to do it is not ours to foresee. How this matter is to stand in the centuries to come, is, of course, beyond our positive knowledge. Whether Science can eliminate miracles as it has done sorcery, and magic, and necromancy, and astrology from the world, is to be the inquiry of future ages; a field of fair conflict between the friends and the enemies of revelation. History in its great facts is safe thus far; religion in its great facts is safe also—each with equal confidence may be safely intrusted to that Great Presidhig Spirit that has preserved both up to the present time. It will remain, in a subsequent part of this course of Lectures—it may be demanded of us—it can not be evaded —to inquire whether the principles of Science which have swept away so much once deemed marvelous and supernatural, will sweep away the claim of all that is miraculous; whether, in view of all that it has done, a miracle can be properly regarded as a historical subject of belief. That point will be reserved for a special subsequent Lecture.