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important, and which is just now somewhat forgotten; I therefore determined to say a few words on it tonight. I do not pretend to teach but only to suggest; to point out certain problems of Natural Theology, the further solution of which ought, I think, to be soon attempted.
I wish to speak, remember, not on natural religion, but on natural theology. By the first, I understand what can be learned from the physical universe of man's duty to God and to his neighbour; by the latter, I understand what can be learned concerning God Himself. Of natural religion I shall say nothing. I do not even affirm that a natural religion is possible : but I do very earnestly believe that a natural theology is possible; and I earnestly believe also that it is most important that natural theology should, in every age, keep pace with doctrinal or ecclesiastical theology.
Bishop Butler certainly held this belief. His Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature”—a book for which I entertain the most profound respect-is based on a belief that the God of Nature and the God of Grace are one; and that, therefore, the God who satisfies our conscience ought more or less to satisfy our reason also. To teach that was Butler's mission, and he fulfilled it well. But it is a mission which has to be re-filled again and again, as human thought changes and human science develops; for if in any age or country the God who seems to be revealed by Nature seems different from the God who is revealed by the then popular religion, then that God, and the religion which tells of that God, will gradually cease to be believed in.
For the demands of Reason (as none knew better than good Bishop Butler) must be and ought to be satisfied. And when a popular war arises between the reason of a generation and its theology, it behoves the ministers of religion to inquire, with all humility and godly fear, on which side lies the fault: whether the theology which they expound is all that it should be, or whether the reason of those who impugn it is all that it should be.
For me, as (I trust) an orthodox priest of the Church of England, I believe the theology of the National Church of England, as by law established, to be eminently rational as well as scriptural. It is not,
, therefore, surprising to me that the clergy of the Church of England, since the foundation of the Royal Society in the seventeenth century, have done more for sound physical science than the clergy of any other denomination; or that the three greatest natural theologians with which I, at least, am acquaintedBerkeley, Butler, and Paley-should have belonged to our Church. I am not unaware of what the Germans of the eighteenth century have done. I consider Goethe's claims to have advanced natural theology very much over-rated: but I do recommend to young clergymen Herder's “Outlines of the Philosophy of the History of Man” as a book (in spite of certain defects) full of sound and precious wisdom. But it seems to me that English natural theology in the eighteenth century stood more secure than that of any other nation, on the foundation which Berkeley,
Butler, and Paley had laid; and that if our orthodox thinkers for the last hundred years had followed steadily in their steps, we should not be deploring now a wide, and as some think increasing, divorce between Science and Christianity.
But it was not so to be. The impulse given by Wesley and Whitfield turned (and not before it was needed) the earnest mind of England almost exclusively to questions of personal religion ; and that impulse, under many unexpected forms, has continued ever since. I only state the fact—I do not deplore it; God forbid ! Wisdom is justified of all her children, and as, according to the wise American, “ it takes all sorts to make a world," so it takes all sorts to make a living Church.
But that the religious temper of England for the last two or three generations has been unfavourable to a sound and scientific development of natural theology, there can be no doubt.
We have only, if we need proof, to look at the hymns--many of them very pure, pious, and beautiful
, -which are used at this day in churches and chapels by persons of every shade of opinion. How often is the tone in which they speak of the natural world one of dissatisfaction, distrust, almost contempt. “Disease, decay, and death around I see,” is their key-note, rather than “O all ye works of the Lord, bless Him, praise Him, and magnify Him together.”
There lingers about them a savour of the old monastic theory, that this earth is the devil's planet, fallen, accursed, goblin-haunted, needing to be exorcised at every turn before it is useful or even safe for man. An
which is adopted as its most popular hymn a paraphrase of 2 mediæval monk's “Hic breve vivitur," and in
SCRIPTURE AND ADVANCED SCIENCE.
which stalwart public-school boys are bidden in their chapel worship to tell the Almighty God of Truth that they lie awake weeping at night for joy at the thought that they will die and see Jerusalem the Golden-is doubtless a pious and devout age; but not —at least as yet-an age in which natural theology is likely to attain a high, a healthy, or a scriptural development.
Not a scriptural development. Let me press on you, my clerical brethren, most earnestly this one point. It is time that we should make up our minds what tone Scripture does take toward Nature, natural science, natural theology. Most of you, I doubt not, have made up your minds already, and in consequence have no fear of natural science, no fear for natural theology. But I cannot deny that I find still lingering here and there certain of the old views of nature of which I used to hear but too much. here in London some five-and-thirty years ago; not from my own father, thank God! for he, to his honour, was one of those few London clergy who then faced and defended advanced physical science; but from others—better men too than I shall ever hope to be who used to consider natural theology as useless, fallacious, impossible, on the ground that this Earth did not reveal the will and character of God, because it was cursed and fallen; and that its facts, in consequence, were not to be respected or relied on. This, I was told, was the doctrine of Scripture, and was therefore true. But when, longing to reconcile my conscience and my reason on a question so awful to a young student of natural science, I went to my Bible, what did I find ? No word of all this. Much-thank God, I may say one continuous undercurrent—of the very opposite of all this. I pray you bear with me, even though I may seem impertinent. But what do we find in the Bible, with the exception of that first curse? That, remember, cannot mea any alteration in the laws of nature by which man's labour should only produce for him henceforth thorns and thistles. For, in the first place, any such curse is formally abrogated in the eighth chapter and twenty-first verse of the very same document_“I will not again curse the earth any more for man's sake. While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.' And next, the fact is not so; for if you
root up the thorns and thistles, and keep your land clean, then assuredly you will grow fruit-trees and not thorns, wheat and not thistles, according to those laws of Nature which are the voice of God expressed in facts. And yet the words are true.
There is a curse upon the earth, though not one which, by altering the laws of nature, has made natural facts untrustworthy. There is a curse on the earth; such a curse as is expressed, I believe, in the old Hebrew text, where the word “adamah ” (correctly translated in our version “the ground”) signifies, as I am told, not this planet, but simply the soil from whence we get our food; such a curse as certainly is expressed by the Septuagint and the Vulgate versions : “Cursed is the earth”. čv toîs épyous goû; "in opere tuo,” as the Vulgate has it
-" in thy works.” Man's work is too often the curse of the very planet which he misuses. None should know that better than the botanist, who sees whole regions desolate, and given up to sterility and literal