« AnteriorContinuar »
that those conclusions in the first instance be separately attained; that those speculations, however barren in themselves, be first established on their own ground; that there must first be a philosophy to afford the external evidences of faith; and an independent investigation of nature to furnish the means of tracing those indications of the Deity*.
Opinions of this kind often take their rise in a zeal for certain particular views of religion, considered to be inculcated by revelation; but this with some diversity of principle.
One party, to exalt the work of grace and the teaching of inspiration, would reject all conclusions of reason; and in accordance with the peculiar scheme of spiritual illumination which they deduce from the Bible, would annihilate the carnal evidence of depraved sense to vindicate the majesty of Divine truth.
Another school, to uphold certain theories for which they claim the exclusive title of rational interpretations of of Scripture, on quite opposite grounds, would keep natural theology out of sight, in order to make revelation little else than a declaration of the same truths.
Both parties seek to uphold the credit of Scripture according to the peculiar views they take of it. The one by rejecting natural reason to exalt faith; the other by making reason everything, but explaining away revelation into an identity with it.
* See Note M. † See Dr. Turton's Natural Theology, p. 207.
To these may be added another school, to whose views we may here briefly advert.
That system of theology which reduces all belief into an act of obedience to the authority of the Church, when thoroughly and consistently followed out to its logical consequences, stands within itself complete and unassailable. Its advocates, therefore, can fearlessly afford to give full scope to physical investigation. Raised far above all appeal to reason, and not condescending to rest its claims on argument, its infallibility cannot be in the slightest degree impaired by any philosophical inquiries, even if they should terminate in conclusions the most hostile to the so-called evidences of revelation.
A system founded on such principles cannot be susceptible of any hostility towards scientific pursuits. And as they confessedly do, to a great extent, afford support to natural theology, they may even be made useful auxiliaries; they may afford occupation to the restless activity of the human mind, and thus withdraw men from inquiries of a more dangerous nature into things spiritual; besides being susceptible of indirect application in the illustration of religious truths.
Such would be the state of the case where these principles were fairly followed out. Such, accordingly, is very much the feeling and practice in the Roman Catholic Church*.
*For some exemplification of this see the Dublin Review, No. IV., and an able article in No. VI., where the wonders of science
I have spoken of such a system if consistently followed up. Now, pretensions of the same kind are maintained by a party among ourselves at the present day;-who, with all the assumptions just described, fall short of their consistent consequences. They refer to a religious authority which discards reason, yet is afraid to claim infallibility;-which rejects human means of conviction, yet does not pretend to divine powers;-which affects to command submission, yet dreads the agitation of argument. Hence in their eyes all scientific investigation is regarded with the utmost suspicion and hostility; all inquiries into physical causes are either profane intrusions on forbidden ground, or empty delusions of blinded self-conceit, and of the most fearful tendency. They must therefore be discarded, or rather, all science must be so modified as merely to hold a subordinate place in a great mystical system, and be interpreted wholly in accordance with certain high principles on which that system is founded; if viewed otherwise, it is dangerous and profane.
Such appears to be the nature of their ideas on the subject, whenever, through the obscurity which envelopes the writings of this school, we can catch a glimpse of their meaning. Thus, we are told, “In history, morals, poetry, legislation, philosophy, language, physics, religion,-heaven and earth, a body
are ingeniously turned to supply an argument for the admission. of mysteries, as in transubstantiation.
of clay and a spirit breathed into its nostrils by the life-giving Spirit, stand over against each other, and whoso lifteth not up the earthly to the heavenly will bring down the heavenly to the earthly. Homer,' says even a heathen, transferred human things to the gods; would he had rather things divine to man* ! If the body be not spiritualized, the soul will be carnalized +."
It will be needless to comment on the entire confusion in which such mysticism involves all rational evidence. Yet a system not claiming entire infallibility, cannot surely dispense with some appeal to such evidence, if it really involve a reference to Divine inspiration.
To an ordinary inquirer of plain sense and honest purpose, a professed belief in revelation, as such, it would seem, must, in any sense, imply a reference to its alleged evidences, examined by reason; and their testimony and its application must presuppose the existence, attributes, and providence of a revealing Deity, already known independently of revelation, and therefore discovered and believed by the exercise and conviction of our unaided intellectual faculties employed in the study of his works.
In any way, then, this confounding together the respective provinces of reason and of faith leads men into equally manifest error and inconsistency; -they must fall into a palpable "petitio principii,"
*Cic. Tusc. i. 36.
+ Dr. Pusey's Sermon on the Fifth of November, Oxford, 1837.
on the one hand, or else rush into fanaticism or bewilder themselves in mystical superstition, on the other.
Meanwhile the enemies of the truth are not backward to perceive the fallacies in which each party thus involve themselves; and thus have only to borrow their language and assume their tone to disguise their insidious attacks upon all revealed religion.
Independence of Scientific and Revealed Truth.
To those who would wish to see the edifice of religious truth reared upon a solid and unassailable foundation, it will surely not seem unimportant to dwell on the necessity of a due order in the disposition of our proofs; of making the belief in revelation depend on the secure support of natural theology; and this again on the truths elicited by inductive science; and with this view carefully to distinguish the nature of scientific proof from that of religious belief. And this is the more necessary, since there are not wanting those who so far confound all such distinctions, as not only to supersede natural theology by revelation, but even go a step further, and look to the Bible as a source of instruction for the truths of natural science; that is, for those very truths on which natural theology rests, and on which consequently its own evidences ultimately depend. There are some, indeed, who have professed to found entire