Imágenes de páginas

fidence in the truth of what they teach? Why not, when they are obliged to take a different view in so important matter as this, hasten to review their interpretation of other facts recorded in the Bible, which seem to be in danger of being found,— if interpreted literally,-in conflict with the latest teachings of science? The world is seeking for truth; and any appearance of fear that science will undermine religion, is interpreted, and justly so,- as showing a want of confidence in religious truth. If then, this theory of myths be admitted, they must be regarded as the earliest expression of human intelligence, and as the germ from which both science and natural religion have been developed. And in regard to revealed religion, while we may admit truths not taught by science, because transcending it, we cannot believe what is plainly inconsistent with science. The conflict between scientists and theologians begins when either scientist or theologian trespasses upon the sphere of the other. In the times of Galileo, theology was the trespasser, and we know how impotent the church was in such a contest. In our day, science has taken the aggressive, and beyond the limits of its proper sphere, it has shown, and must continue to show, itself equally weak.

Thus, when Prof. Tyndall asserts his belief that matter possesses "the promise and potency of all terrestrial life," the religious world is startled with the idea that scientific materialism is to supersede the necessity of a God.

But let us look at this statement a little more carefully. It is not that matter, as commonly understood, possesses this potency. As Martineau has shown, the "radical change of our notions of matter," required to give it this "potency" makes the statement much iess formidable than would at first appear. "Is there," says he, "no logical illusion in the Naturalist doctrine which, in our time, is proclaimed with so much pomp, and resisted with so much passion? "Matter is all I want," says the physicist; "give me atoms alone, and I will explain, the universe." "Good; take as many of them as you please; see that they have all that is requisite to Body, being homogeneous extended solids." "That is not enough," he replies;

"it might do for Democritus and the mathematicians, but I must have somewhat more; the atoms must be not only in motion and of various shapes, but also of as many kinds as there are chemical elements; for how could I ever get water, if I had only hydrogen molecules to work with?" "So be it," we shall say; "only this is a considerable enlargement of your specified datum,- in fact, a conversion of it into several." He then shows clearly that by no mere manipulation of atoms can we educe consciousness. "No organism can ever show more than matter moved," and the impassable chasm between definite movements of definite cerebral atoms, and the primary facts which we can neither define nor deny, of feeling a pain or pleasure, smelling a rose scent, hearing an organ tone,― remain wholly unexplained.

Science has no hypothesis of the manner in which these movements, even when we have changed our "notions of matter" to the extent required by Tyndall,- pass into conscious



Invest matter with all the properties you will, the scientist still stops short of Consciousness, Thought, Will. But suppose that our notion of matter is so changed as to make it pregnant with all the future," we find that our definition of matter, or matter and force, as the case may be, though it seems to imply something little short of a God; still" we are conscious that our universe of several facts, and laws, is scarce God's living world." It lacks

[ocr errors]

"The unity that all compacts,

And makes a cosmos of the host."

It has to do with second causes, and knows no more of a first cause than geometry does of unlimited space. There is a somewhat "not ourselves," as Matthew Arnold has it, "that makes for righteousness." This we call God, while we admit that we cannot, "by searching find Him out to perfection." At present, whatever antagonism exists is not between relig ion and science; it is a struggle for victory,- rather than for truth, between the theologian and the scientist.

Dismissing, then, all fear, lest some favorite tenet may be


endangered, and divesting ourselves of all preconceptions and prejudice, let us pursue our theological and scientific researches with a sole reference to the discovery of truth, and in the full assurance that God's words and works will be found in har mony..

Acting in this spirit, both scientists and theologians will constantly review their opinions, subjecting them to modern tests, and discarding whatever modern research has found to be untenable. Nor is it too much to say, that while science is continually advancing by ruthlessly sloughing off whatever conflicts with modern discovery, religion will appeal more directly to our consciousness, and the Bible will be regarded with greater respect and reverence, when theologians subject its teachings to a scrutiny analogous to that of the scientist.

Thus while admitting that geology has rendered it necessary to modify the popular idea af the creation, as recorded in Genesis, but without, in any way, invalidating the essential fact that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," why should we fear to subject our religious opinions and whatever, in the Old Testament or the New, seems to have lost its hold on the popular belief, to the same rigid scrutiny? Any fear of the consequences shows, and is interpreted as simply a lack of confidence in the self-sustaining power of truth. Were these methods adopted, there would be no longer a contest between science and religion, but the devotees of each would be in pursuit of the same object, truth, though perhaps by different methods.

Starting, then, together, with what was at the same time the science and the religion of the primitive man, they have each, unconsciously, perhaps, labored by their appropriate methods toward the same end. Thus the "personification of the causes" of all observed phenomena led directly to polytheism, while the more extended classifications of science showed the uniformity of the relations of cause and effect, and thus developed the idea of law.

Science and religion, then, may each claim to have done essential service in the progress of the race. Without the aid

of science, religion must have remained simply a superstition; and without the aid of religion, science could have been only a gross materialism. But as in the past, each has made its contributions to the other, and the results of scientific and religious advancement have been found in harmony, though scientists and theologians may have disagreed,―so, we may be confident, it will be in the future. And what if we find that

"Ghost, and Gin, and Fay,
Are but the forms of highest truth,
The Father's parable to youth,
To teach that law is Will! **


New Problems in our Church Work.

It is a cause for congratulation that the oldest minds in the Universalist Church are alive to the signs of the times, and aware of the fresh needs created in both our polemics and our polity, by the thought of the age. It is a recognized truth in the history of opinions, that the statements of a truth grow more perfect with their restatements. The crude thought which takes possession of the hearts of one generation is shaped into symmetry and maturer strength in the cooler air of a succeeding time. And if in the restatements of the faith which the fathers held, the sons find it necessary to amend a phraseology, or modify a dogma, or change a method of administration, they are only revising the hurried utterances of the truth with the calmer second thought of self-criticism. Theology, to be sure, is a most sensitive science, and tenacious of the belief that all its established views are right ones. But, in spite of Macaulay's fling, it is still somewhat progressive, and, though it seldom admits the changes it makes, drops its superfluities or mends its errors from year to year, according to the demand which an ever-active thoughtfulness makes upon it.

There is a cordial willingness at present apparent among Universalists to review the positions which they were compelled to take up by the exigencies of the theological campaign of forty or fifty years ago, with a view to any re-statement which the times may require. We are not altogether occupied with the issues of a half-century now past. We have shown a capacity for turning to modern demands. And the current discussions upon the phrasing of the Winchester Confession, the nature of forgiveness, the place of memory in retribution, not to speak of other subjects, indicate a readiness to perfect our statement of faith; while the alacrity with which our scholars and theologians have addressed themselves to the new phases of orthodoxy, reveals a sympathy with the spirit and demand of the hour, which promises the best things for our future.

It is not the aim of the present paper to venture any hasty prophecy as to the ultimate result of the internal criticism at present so active in our Church. Our object is not to dogmatize, but to suggest. The Universalist Church, like all other churches, is on the march. And without asserting just where we are destined to arrive, it is still possible to point out certain directions in which we are moving. This will be our purpose.

1. It may be safely asserted, then, in the first place, that the exegesis by which we have sustained our positions is very likely to receive important modifications during the next halfcentury. The old-fashioned commentary is going out of date. The crude and primitive conceptions of the Bible which it expresses, and on which its interpretations rest, are yielding to the light which has been poured in upon the Scriptures from a thousand sources of modern knowledge and criticism. That view of their structure and design which assumes that all their parts have expressly in view all other parts, and that, e. g., the writer of Psalm lxix. knew all the incidents of the death of Judas, although still strenuously held, is nevertheless becoming obsolete. Scholars and critics have already abandoned it, and at the same time, of course, whatever meth

« AnteriorContinuar »