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THROUGHOUT the whole of the foregoing discussion, in illustrating the mutual relation and reaction between physical science, natural theology, and revealed religion, we have referred much to the various misapprehensions which prevail respecting such connexion among the several branches of the inquiry. We have referred especially to the fears entertained for the safety of religion, and the expedients resorted to for obviating the supposed danger; -expedients as futile as the alarms are groundless. We have commented on the hostility felt against science, and the dread of free inquiry; the disparagement of natural theology, and of physical inquiry as its basis, which are dictated by the adherence to the narrowest and most unworthy views of the tenour of revelation. While the rejection of the physical evidences of creation on the one hand, and the attempts to accommodate the Hebrew Scriptures to them on the other, display an unhappy perplexity of ideas, whether as to the principles of interpretation, or to the character and objects of the different parts of the sacred writings.
We have adverted to the causes which have led to the adoption of these views: if we look to the consequences of encouraging such a spirit, it is evident that its inevitable results will be anything but serviceable to the true interests of Christianity. The followers of these systems may persuade themselves they are powerfully upholding religion, whilst, in reality, they are only thus exposing themselves and their cause to increased suspicion among its avowed enemies, and with many who are desirous to be its friends.
Such narrow views and flimsy speculations insisted on as necessary to the support of the Christian religion, can only tend to throw discredit on its evidences, or be regarded as betraying a secret misgiving as to their soundness, in the minds of its professed disciples.
If such a spirit increase and gain ground among the friends of religion, and continue to be inculcated and urged by its advocates, it is manifest that in the temper of the present times, whether by one course or another, it must equally lead to the very object they are so anxious to strive against, the wider and deeper extension of irreligion.
Attempts to oppose rational inquiry and free discussion have always been as vain and futile in themselves, as pernicious to real Christianity. Whenever they have partially succeeded, it has only been, on the one hand, in producing general hypocrisy, ill concealing irreligious licentiousness; or, on the other, in setting faith and philosophy in open hostility: and thus science, from being in its proper way, the powerful auxiliary, has been converted into the enemy, of religion, only by the ill-judged zeal of its friends. By a perversion of Christianity they alienate from it those who would be its best and most enlightened supporters, and professedly setting themselves in array against knowledge, they appear to make open confession that religion must be established on the basis of ignorance; and, as far as they can, force it into an unnatural alliance with darkness rather than light.
Such inquiries as those we have here been endeavouring to elucidate, point to a widely extended connexion and dependence, subsisting between the truths of natural and revealed theology; between the manifestations of the Divinity in the natural and moral creation, in the order and design of the physical world, and in those spiritual revelations of the most elevated kind which we find in Scripture; between the two books in which, (as Bacon* has observed,) Divine communications are alike vouchsafed to us, the volume of nature and the page of inspiration. The points of analogy between the two departments of inquiry are, indeed, peculiarly striking, and most worthy to be more diligently studied and practically applied than they seem to have been. The discussion of them would form the appropriate sequel to the foregoing essay; and such a sequel I have immediately in contemplation.
* De Augmentis, i.
For the present I will close with a very brief recapitulation.
It has been our object to show that the order and dependence of fixed laws, and general principles, constitutes our notion of physical cause and effect. And it is from the arrangement and symmetry of these principles, or causes, that we ascend to the great source of order and harmony: from the facts of physical causation to the Infinite moral cause, ordaining and animating the entire system of them.
Physical science is the necessary foundation of natural theology: certain of the truths it discloses are warnings against mistaking the purport of Scripture; and the right use of the caution thus inculcated, applies widely in the interpretation of revelation. Inductive philosophy is subservient both to natural and revealed religion. The investigation of God's works is an essential introduction to the right reception of his word.
The conclusions of natural theology are limited in extent, but demonstrative in proof: they are most important in themselves; and indispensable in the foundations of any evidence of revelation. Its truths elevate science into faith, while its deficiencies evince the necessity for further illumination: it tends to inculcate humility and to excite inquiry : and where it shows the path of reason to be closed, it points to the brighter opening of inspiration.