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The earth, yielding its fruits with prolific bounty, proclaims God's merciful providence in supplying man's wants and comforts.
The beauty of the landscape is a mirror dimly reflecting the infinite loveliness of God; for the author must possess in an eminent degree the perfections exhibited in his works. Solomon, who was a close student of nature, was thus impressed.' He says, if men are delighted with the beauty of the visible creation, "Let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first Author of beauty made all these things.
For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby."2 And St. Paul declares that they who will not recognize the power and divinity of God by the contemplation of the works of creation, are inexcusable.3
When the thoughtful student reflects that he is a mere atom amid the illimitable space and countless orbs that surround him, he is overawed by a sense of his nothingness; and when he considers how little he has learned after all his labor, in comparison with the treasures of knowledge that still lie hidden in nature's bosom, he is profoundly impressed with his ignorance.
But when he considers the intellectual faculties with which he is endowed and the pre-eminent place he holds in creation, conscious of his dignity,
he is filled with gratitude to God, as was David when he said: "What is man that thou art mindful of him! ... Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast set him over the works of Thy hands."1
In a word, every object in creation speaks to him of the wisdom and power of God. He
"Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
He rises from nature to nature's God.
The more deeply the student of nature penetrates into her secrets, the more does he admire the wisdom of the Creator. "Small draughts of philosophy," says Bacon, "lead to atheism; but larger ones bring back to God."
It would, therefore, be a great mistake to suppose that the agnostic and unbelieving scientists of the nineteenth century are made such by physical studies. They were already imbued with those ideas when they began their labors, and every phenomenon which they discovered was shaped to suit their preconceived theories.
1 P8. VIII., 5, 6, 7. 2 As You Like It.
THE CHURCH IS THE TRUE FRIEND AND
Now, since reason and revelation aid each other in leading us to God, the Author of both, it is manifest that the Catholic Church, so far from being opposed to the cultivation of reason, encourages and fosters science of every kind. The more secrets science will elicit from nature's bosom, the more the Church will rejoice; because she knows that no new revelation of nature will ever utter the words: "There is no God!" Rather will they whisper to the eager investigator, "He made us, and not we ourselves."
Each new discovery of science is a trophy with which religion loves to adorn her altars. She hails every fresh invention as another voice adding its harmonious notes to that grand choir which is ever singing the praises of the God of nature.
At no period of the Church's history did she wield greater authority than from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. She exercised not only spiritual, but also temporal power; and she had
great influence with the princes of Christendom. Now, this is the very period of the rise and development of the universities in Europe. During these four centuries, nineteen universities were opened in France, thirteen in Italy, six in Great Britain and Ireland, two in Spain and one in Belgium. At no time did the human intellect revel in greater freedom. No question of speculative science escaped the inquisitive search of men of thought. Successful explorations were made in every field of science and art. The weapons of heathendom were employed in fighting the battles of truth. The principles of Aristotle, the greatest of ancient dialecticians, were used as handmaids to religion and, in the words of Cardinal Newman, "With the jaw-bone of an ass, with the skeleton of Pagan Greece, St. Thomas, the Samson of the schools, put to flight his thousand Philistines."1
It is an incontrovertible fact that it is only in countries enjoying the blessings of Christian civilization that science has made any perceptible progress. And the writers who for the last two thousand years have been most conspicuous in every department of physical knowledge, were, with few exceptions, believers in Christian revelation. If we search for light among the followers of Lucretius, Confucius, or Mohammed, we shall find little to reward us for our pains.
In astronomy and geology, mechanics and math
1 The Idea of a University, Sec. viii.
ematics, in chemistry, physiology, and navigation, Christian scholars hold a pre-eminent place. It is to Copernicus, a priest and canon, that the world is indebted for the discovery of the planetary revolutions around the sun.
It is to the learning and patronage of Pope Gregory XIII. that we owe the reformation of the calendar and the computations which determine with minute accuracy the length of the solar year. Galileo, Kepler, and Secchi, Sir Isaac Newton and Lord Bacon, Leibnitz, Lavoisier, Euler, Cuvier, and Descartes, are recognized leaders in the field of science. They were, moreover, firm believers in revelation, while most of them combined strong religious convictions with scientific erudition. In the study of nature they do not fail to record with devout praise their admiration for the power and providence of the Creator.
The first circumnavigation of the globe, the discovery of the American continent, the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope, as well as the most accurate geographical survey of the earth's surface are events for which we are indebted to Christian navigators and explorers, all actuated by an indomitable spirit of enterprise, and most of them inspired with the higher motive of zeal for the propagation of the Gospel. Marco Polo, Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Magellan, and Vasco da Gama, were men of strong religious faith, who embarked on their perilous voyages with the benediction of the Church upon them.
Our own country is largely indebted to Catholie