« السابقةمتابعة »
in more enlightened times; because, from its claim to infallibility, it cannot itself change, and therefore must ever be endeavouring to bend opinion to its own antiquated views. Not to mention the multitude of half-educated men who are avowedly hostile to Revealed Religion, and who watch every new discovery or theory in science, in hope that something to its disadvantage may thence be derived, it is to be lamented that many even of the present respectable advocates of improvements in the condition of society, and patrons of general knowledge, seem to consider the interests of the human race quite irreconcileable with those of the Christian Church; and though they think it indecorous or unfeeling to attack religion openly, yet appear confidently to expect that the progress of discovery and general cultivation of the human mind must terminate in the fallof Christianity.
It must be confessed that the conduct of Christians has sometimes given countenance to these erroneous views respecting the nature and tendency of Revealed Religion. Too much deference has been paid to ancient literature. Admiration of the genius displayed in its writings, an imagination excited by the consideration of its very antiquity, not unfrequently the pride of knowledge and a desire of appearing to be possessed of a treasure which the many do not enjoy, have led men to exalt the sentiments of former ages to the disparagement of modern ideas. With a view, moreover, to in
crease (as they have supposed) the value and dignity of the sacred volume, others have been induced to set it forth as a depository of all truth, philosophical as well as religious; although St. Paul seems to limit its utility to profitableness for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Others, again, have been too diligent and too hasty in answering every frivolous and isolated objection to the words of Scripture, which has been urged,—nay, which they fancied might possibly be urged,—from successive discoveries in science; too diligent, because their minute solicitude has occasioned them to lose sight of the Christian evidence as a whole, and to magnify the objection, as if (though it were unanswerable) it could really weigh against the mass of arguinent producible on the other side; and too hasty because, had they been patient, succeeding discoveries would perhaps of themselves have solved for them the objection, without the interference of a controversialist. The ill consequences of such a procedure are obvious: the objection has been recognized as important, while the solution offered has too often been inadequate or unsound. To feel jealous and appear timid, on witnessing the enlargement of scientific knowledge, is almost to acknowledge that there may be some contrariety between it and Revelation.
Our Saviour, in the text, calls Himself the Light of the world; as David had already said, in words which especially belong to this place and this day, “ The Lord is my Light;” and though He so speaks of Himself as bringing religious knowledge to an ignorant and apostate race, yet we have no reason to suppose that He forbids lawful knowledge of any kind, and we cannot imagine that He would promulgate, by His inspired servants, doctrines which contradict previous truths which He has written on the face of nature.
The objection to Christianity, to which the foregoing remarks relate, may be variously answered.
First, by referring to the fact that the greatest Philosophers of modern times—the founders of the new school of discovery, and those who have most extended the boundaries of our knowledge—have been forced to submit their reason to the Gospel ; a circumstance which, independent of the argument for the strength of the Christian evidence which the conviction of such men affords, at least shows that Revealed Religion cannot be very unfavourable to scientific inquiries, when those who sincerely acknowledged the former still distinguished themselves above others in the latter.
Again, much might be said on the coincidence. which exists between the general principles which the evidence for Revelation presupposes, and those on which inquiries into nature proceed. Science and Revelation agree in supposing that nature is governed by uniform and settled laws. Scripture, properly understood, is decisive in rem u ving all those irregular
agents which are supposed to interrupt, at their own pleasure, the order of nature. Almost every religion but that of the Bible and those derived from it, has supposed the existence of an indefinite number of beings, to a certain extent independent of each other, able to interfere in the affairs of life, and whose interference (supposing it to exist) being reducible to no law, took away all hope of obtaining any real information concerning the actual system of the universe. On the other hand, the inspired writers are express in tracing all miraculous occurrences to the direct interposition, or at least the permission of the Deity; and since they also imply that miracles are displayed, not at random, but with a purpose, their declarations in this respect entirely agree with the deductions which scientific observation has made concerning the general operation of established laws, and the absence of any arbitrary interference with them on the part of beings exterior to the present course of things. The supposition, then, of a system of established laws, on which all philosophical investigation is conducted, is also the very foundation on which the evidence for Revealed Religion rests. It is the more necessary to insist upon this, because some writers have wished to confuse the Jewish and Christian faiths with those other religions and those popular superstitions, which are framed on no principle, and supported by no pretence of reasoning.
Without enlarging, however, on arguments of this nature, it is proposed now to direct attention to the moral character which both the Jewish and Christian religions hold up as the excellence and perfection of human nature; for we shall find that some of those habits of mind which are throughout the Bible represented as alone pleasing in the sight of God, are the very habits which are necessary for success in scientific investigation, and without which it is quite impossible to extend the sphere of our knowledge. If this be so, then the fact is accounted for without difficulty, why the most profound philosophers have acknowledged the claims of Christianity upon them. And further, considering that the character which Scripture draws of the virtuous man as a whole is (what may be called) an original character,—only the scattered traces of it being found in authors unacquainted with the Bible,-an argument will almost be established in favour of Christianity, as having conferred an intellectual as well as a spiritual benefit on the world.
For instance, it is obvious that to be in earnest in seeking the truth is an indispensable requisite for finding it. Indeed, it would not be necessary to notice so evident a proposition, had it not been for the strange conduct of the ancient philosophers in their theories concerning nature and man. There seems to have been but one or two of them who were serious and sincere in their inquiries and teaching. Most. of them considered speculations on philosophical