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systems of philosophy wholly on the basis of inspired authority; others who do not go this length, at least from the peculiar view they adopt of the character of the inspired writings, would mix up their authority with that of experimental proof, and imagine either that the one or the other can receive an accession of evidence; that that which is divine can be made more sure by human confirmation, or that which has the evidence of sense more certain by the appeal to authority*
Let us then look at the general distinction between the ground of science and of faith. What is scientific inquiry? And what are the objects we have in view in pursuing its investigations? Is not such inquiry necessarily limited to questions of fact, and such discovery of laws and causes as we can legitimately deduce by strict reasoning upon those facts ? Are not such objects exclusively those of truth as discoverable by the sole use of our reasoning faculties? If then we either adopt any other standard whatsoever in such questions, or pursue our inquiries by a reference to any other authority whatsoever than solely that of inductive inference from observed phenomena, we åre deviating from the proper line of scientific inquiry; we are renouncing the principles of the inductive philosophy altogether.
Yet that which is no guide in matters of science, may be the highest standard of truth in reference to matters which properly belong to its province. The truths of revelation, received upon their proper moral evidence, evince their divine excellence when directed to the high and peculiar ends for which they are designed. But the moment we so entirely mistake their object as to apply them to the purposes of philosophic instruction, our inquiries lose every characteristic of rational or consistent investigation.
* See Note N.
Scientific and revealed truth are of essentially different natures, and if we attempt to combine and unite them, we are attempting to unite things of a kind which cannot be consolidated, and shall infallibly injure both. In a word, in physical science we must keep strictly to physical induction and demonstration; in religious inquiry, to moral proof; but never confound the two together. When we follow observation and inductive reasoning, our inquiries lead us to science. When we obey the authority of the Divine Word, we are not led to science but to faith. The mistake consists in confounding these two distinct objects together; and imagining that we are pursuing science when we introduce the authority of revelation. They cannot be combined without losing the distinctive character of both. If faith is to be our guide to natural truth at all, it must be wholly so. If we appeal to its authority at all on points of natural science, we must adopt it as our sole authority; we must renounce all guidance of reason, all appeal to the evidence of sense. If we are to reject the results of observation and the evidence of our reason on one point, we in fact give up the principle of making them our guides to truth: that is, we give up the principle and ground of all experimental knowledge; of all independent search into the works of the Creator; and by consequence, of all rational proof of his existence, and thus ultimately of his revelations too.
To the connexion of physical causes and the order of the material creation we appeal for the evidences of the Divine existence and perfections. Until we have proof of a Deity, we can have none of a revelation. Upon the proofs of natural religion those of revelation essentially depend. To give the latter, then, any share whatever in determining the former, is to make the premises depend on the conclusion. The evidences of natural religion are derived from physical knowledge. To assume, then, the authority of Scripture as in the slightest degree applicable to prove the order of physical causes and the laws of the material creation, is to make revelation the basis of natural theology,—or, in other words, to beg the question, to vitiate the whole argument, and to destroy all rational evidence. Yet it would really seem that there are some who do not see the contradiction of such a course ;-of believing in revelation without first believing in God; of receiving a doctrine as declared from Him before we prove that He is. For such is precisely the proceeding of those who look to the Bible, as such, for instruction in the science of nature. They do not seem to perceive
that the arguments of natural theology must, from the nature of the case, be independent of the truth of revelation; and that, consequently, the evidences of physical truth, on which the former wholly depend, must be, in like manner, sought for independently of the authority of Scripture. To allow the opposite course is to entangle the chain of reasoning in hopeless confusion, and to make the whole evidence of religion an argument in a circle.
This essential independence of Scripture and physical science is the more necessary to be attended to, because though it has not been overlooked by some writers, yet it has not been generally maintained upon its right basis. And it appears, in reference to some floating opinions of the present time, peculiarly needful to insist upon this distinction, so essential to the stability of the evidences of natural theology, and, by consequence, to those of revelation also, yet so strangely misconceived, and practically denied, by some parties at the present day.
The observations which I have thus far made have referred to any, the most general, notion which can be entertained of a revelation of Divine truth, in whatever we may imagine it to consist, or by whatever means conveyed. They will, however, apply with equal force when we proceed to consider the nature and mode of such communications of Divine truth in a more precise sense; when we advance to the examination of that particular view of revelation which consists in the adoption of the volume of the Bible, as its sole authentic record and depository.
And this view of the subject naturally and immediately brings us to the examination of a point of considerable importance bearing upon the connexion of natural and revealed truth, and which arises out of the more particular notion of revelation to which we are now referring ;—the question of certain real or alleged contradictions between the results of physical investigation and the language of the Bible, and the attempts which have been made to reconcile them.
Among those who admit the general truth of the foregoing remarks,—who allow, when it is distinctly put to them, that the laws of nature, in order to become evidences of a Deity, must be established on independent grounds, there are yet those who feel difficulties with regard to certain Scriptural expressions. Many who fully acknowledge, when it is pressed upon them, the fallacy of making the truth of Scripture the basis of its own evidence, yet still feel considerably perplexed by alleged discrepancies between science and revelation. They still seem to think the cause of religion in danger, unless the language of all parts of the Bible can be brought into exact accordance with the facts and laws discovered in the natural world, and would thus hazard its entire credit upon the chance of contradiction which may arise at every fresh disclosure of physical discovery