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SECTION IV.—THE RELATION OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE AND
OF NATURAL THEOLOGY TO REVELATION.
WITHIN a few years past, an extraordinary interest has been evinced, and an unusual supply of works produced on subjects relating to the application of Physical Science to Natural Theology; its connexion with revelation, and the influence which physical truths have in guiding us even in the interpretation of Scripture. The train of writers called forth by the Bridgewater bequest; the reproduction of Paley's work, illustrated and prefaced from the resources of a period of advanced knowledge; and the various other publications to which these directly. or indirectly have given rise, have together furnished a body of facts and arguments in which it might be supposed every topic would have been exhausted, and nothing left to be desired in the analysis of those evidences on which the fundamental truths of all religion are established. If we look more closely into the nature of the discussion, we however perceive that this is far from being the case. With the majority of writers on natural theology, the mere accumulation of particular instances of design from different parts of the natural world, has been almost the sole object of attention; now though it cannot be denied that they have thus most advantageously brought the resources of all branches of science to bear on the question, yet (to whatever source it may be traced), a great deficiency appears to exist to the exact analysis of principles, and the philosophy of the argument; of which it must be confessed we meet with frequent instances even among writers of high eminence. The cultivators of physical science, perhaps, have not been generally disposed or qualified to enter upon logical distinctions; while the theological and metaphysical inquirers have too commonly been but little versed in physical evidence, and have thus failed to appreciate and enforce the extent and importance of the great argument from the order and arrangement of physical laws and causes.
To bring united resources of both kinds to bear on the subject has been the professed object of some of the recent publications alluded to. Among these the Bridgewater Treatise of Mr. Whewell, the Discourse of Lord Brougham, and the Fragment of Mr. Babbage, stand conspicuous, especially when the first is taken in connexion with some passages in the History of the Inductive Sciences by the same author; and the second, with the Natural Theology of Dr. Turton.
Another writer, also, has recently discussed the evidences of natural theology; but with widely different views from any of those just referred to; and to whose treatise (as it has obtained a considerable share of commendation in certain quarters,) I must briefly allude, viz., a work entitled, The whole Doctrine of Final Causes, &c., by the Rev. W. J. Irons, of Queen's College, Oxford. London, 1836.
This writer, upon professedly philosophical principles, and by an elaborate metaphysical argument, has undertaken to maintain that a strictly natural theology, logically deduced from the phenomená of creation, is absolutely unattainable.