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“THOUGH one were to allow any confused undetermined sense, which people might please to put upon the word natural, it would be a shortness of thought scarce credible to imagine, that no system or course of things can be so, but only what we see at present; ...... the only distinct meaning of that word is stated, fixed, or settled ; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually, or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it at once.”—BUTLER'S “ Analogy of Religion," Part I. Natural Religion, Chap. i.
STATE OF THE CASE.
" Je voudrais faire quelque progrès nouveau dans la connaissance des choses divines.”
THE age in which we live, not without reason, boasts of great growth in knowledge and useful application of that knowledge. This breadth and accuracy, unless we exercise due care, will enrich the race at the expense of the individual. It is no longer possible for a single mind to occupy the whole domain of investigation. The student must limit his labours to one field of science; to one tree, branch, or even leaf of knowledge ; if he will add any new thing to the intellectual store of mankind.
That is a noble devotion which abandons vast mines of research, and concentrates every energy to carry one single line of inquiry to the furthest limit. Such devotion, for the sake of accuracy and of discovery, involves great sacrifices; and not the least of these, though often overlooked, is a narrowing of the student's own nature. The eye, turned continually upon objects near and small, loses the faculty of far-seeking and wide discernment. The mind, wholly given to one study and its special methods, loses power and discrimination as to outlying provinces of thought.
Nowhere is the evil effect so plainly seen as in those students of physical science the minuteness and mechanical nature of whose investigations render them like the carpenter who will have everything made of wood, or, as the blacksmith who recommends iron. Their leaders must be pained to find that having scorned the statements of Scripture as too human,-rendering the work of creation too man-like,--they are reduced to the absurdity of endeavouring to find a mechanical equivalent for the world, in which the ultimate atoms turn the key of every mystery, and possess, in some incomprehensible manner, the promise and potency of all terrestrial life.
Some of our religious teachers err by another kind of onesidedness. Knowing but little of physics, they use exploded arguments, and seek to maintain untenable positions. No wonder that the Sacred Cause, which they endeavour to champion, is imperilled rather than vindicated.
Such an unnatural separation, on the one hand, of Science from Religion, and from all connection with holy sentiment, is a surrender, by physicists, of an honourable position; and reduces Science to an occupation of sheer curiosity and selfish utilitarianism. A separation, on the other hand, of Religion from Science, gives to our clergy the impossible task of explaining the universe without the aid of positive knowledge. As a result, even the verities of Divine Revelation, true independently of belief or unbelief, are not handled with sufficient force to obtain the conviction of scientific intellect, nor so pleasingly set forth as to win the affections of a devout will. Truths, which the greatest of mankind have thoroughly investigated and undoubtedly accepted, are now refused by the unspiritual, who, not being able to detect the soul by physical analysis ; nor to find God by means of microscope and telescope ; nor by any unbelieving efforts to obtain a view of the Eternal Spirit; assert—“The existence of the Soul, the Being of God, the Divine Revelation, have no other foundation than the devout aspirations of believers.”
It is true that there are, specially in the medical profession, men with keen unconquerable love for scientific study; who, not possessing special religious convictions, nor having any particular expectation of pecuniary advantage, devote themselves, “heart and soul,” with intense unselfish devotion, to the study of their own branch of science. These men save life and beautify it, their love of science is a sacred love, and it may be that with such men “to work is to pray.”
“ The thought of their laborious years doth breed
Perpetual benedictions : not indeed
Not for this we raise
But for those obstinate questionings
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the dawning light of better day.” For the sake of these and other truth-loving men, in danger of being beguiled by the sophisms of an imperfect science, this book is written, that, obtaining clearness and gathering strength, they may say,
“Wherefore should we be silent, we who know
The trance of adoration, and behold
And Him who sits thereon ?" In a scientific work no apology is needed for the statement in detail of scientific facts. They are needful for instruction of the unscientific, and useful to the scientific as exhibiting the basis of real argument; but the highest reason for their introduction is that the true discoveries of science are themselves revelations of the Divine Presence and Work - a psalmody of Wisdom and Power.
We do not deal with the controversies amongst believers, nor with Scepticism in some of its rationalistic doubts; but with those who deny Supernaturalism, who refuse to believe in a personal God-our Creator, our Preserver, our Father. We undertake a conflict the momentous nature of which involves our highest interests : nothing less, on the one hand than the loss of everything which can elevate man; and, on the other, his degradation to a brute-nature. Those who trifle with unbelief should well understand this ultimate issue, and draw back while there is time. It is well that the Materialist should undeceive himself as to the imaginary benefits delusively hoped to result from his philosophy; should see that to unfaith men takes from them everything which can preserve from evil and lead to good; well for him to be aware that without a sense of holiness, of devotion to a Higher Being degradation ensues.
While employing physical and metaphysical arguments against the Materialist, we contend for a Revelation in an Inspired Record as an essential bulwark against error, and the only infallible guide to truth ; as the corrective of scientific generalizations which would banish God from the world ;
and as the teacher of moral and spiritual laws which are coordinate with and analogous to those physical laws which a scientific generalization has revealed. Indeed, physical science is the sister and handmaid of Revelation: no lasting antagonism can exist between them. Science has not yet far enough advanced to establish perfect accord with Revelation, but it is tending thither; and, when attained, the generalizations of science will be no longer doubtful but assured.Our aim, in this book, is to promote that agreement by showing the correspondence between truly scientific conclusions and Holy Writ; by exposing hasty generalizations which appear contrary to Revelation; and by making it plain that scientific truths, like spiritual, have for ever been descending from heaven to men.
Materialists forget all this. By mistake and misfortune, astonished by unprepared emergence from comparative ignorance of physical science to wider information, they deny that there is any science or commanding intellect apart from their own; not knowing that all the sublimest achievements of our nature are spiritually scientific. To be great, they must not only use the miscroscope of observation, but the far-sighted telescope of imagination, and verify the vision. Then they will be aware that former insurrections against Divine Truth were sustained by men of brilliant parts, of dazzling wit, of refined culture, of fascinating manners; but, when the tumult had subsided, Sacred Verities were found more firmly established, having called forth in their defence the highest intellectual powers that human nature ever displays. The Greek, the Roman, the Celt, the Teuton, rebelled against the Revelation which God gave to one family of mankind; but the Divine Oracles, because they are Divine, prevailed all the more. We have now greater learning, and higher power of criticism, but the Sacred Documents will endure a far more searching test than any they have yet received. It will again be proved, that men are not happy until pure intelligence finds relief and solution for the perplexities of existence, by those acts of beneficence and high morality which are only intelligible and possible through the con