« AnteriorContinuar »
yet, instead of hearing Jesus Christ as dis- system moved in orbits which are purely ciples, they sit in authority over him as circular, we would oppose to him the objudges. Instead of forming their divinity servations and measurements of astronomy. after the Bible, they try the Bible by their Were he to tell us, that in winter the sun antecedent divinity; and this book, with all never shone, and that in summer no cloud its mighty train of evidences, must drivelever darkened the brilliancy of his career, in their anti-chambers, till they have pro- we would oppose to him the certain renounced sentence of admission, when they membrances, both of ourselves and of our have got its doctrines to agree with their whole neighbourhood. Were he to tell us, own airy and unsubstantial speculations. that we were perfect men, because we were
We do not condemn the exercise of rea- free from passion, and loved our neighbours son in matters of theology. It is the part as ourselves, we should oppose to him the of reason to form its conclusions, when it history of our own lives, and the deeplyhas data and evidences before it. But it is seated consciousness of our own infirmities. equally the part of reason to abstain from On all these subjects, we can confront him; its conclusions, when these evidences are but when he brings truth from a quarter wanting. Reason can judge of the external which no human eye ever explored; when evidences for Christianity, because it can he tells us the mind of the Deity, and brings discern the merits of human testimony: and before us the counsels of that invisible Beit can perceive the truth or the falsehood ing, whose arm is abroad upon all worlds, of such obvious credentials as the per- and whose views reach to eternity, he is formance of a miracle, or the fulfilment of beyond the ken of eye or of telescope, and a prophecy. But reason is not entitled to we must submit to him. We have no more sit in judgment over those internal evi- right to sit in judgment over his informadences, which many a presumptuous the- tion, than we have to sit in judgment over ologian has attempted to derive from the the information of any other visitor, who reason of the thing, or from the agreement lights upon our planet, from some distant of the doctrine with the fancied character and unknown part of the universe, and tells and attributes of the Deity. One of the most us what worlds roll in those remote tracts useful exercises of reason, is to ascertain its which are beyond the limits of our astronolimits, and to keep within them; to abandon my, and how the Divinity peoples them with the fields of conjecture, and to restrain itself wonders. Any previous conceptions of ours within that safe and certain barrier which are of no more value than the fooleries of forms the boundary of human experience. an infant; and should we offer to resist or However humiliating you may conceive it, to modify upon the strength of these con. it is this which lies at the bottom of Lord ceptions, we would be as unsound and as Bacon's philosophy, and it is to this that unphilosophical as ever schoolman was with modern science is indebted for all her so- his categories, or Cartesian with his whirllidity, and all her triumphs. Why does pools of ether. philosophy flourish in our days? Because Let us go back to the first Christians of her votaries have learned to abandon their the Gentile world. They turned from dumb own creative speculations, and to submit to idols to serve the living and the true God. evidence, let her conclusions be as painful They made a simple and entire transition and as unpalatable as they will. Now all from a state as bad, if not worse, than that that we want, is to carry the same lesson of entire ignorance, to the Christianity of and the same principle into theology. Our the New Testament. Their previous conbusiness is not to guess, but to learn. After ceptions instead of helping them, behoved we have established Christianity to be an to be utterly abandoned; nor was there that authentic message from God upon those intermediate step which so many of us historical grounds on which the reason and think to be necessary, and which we dignify experience of man entitle him to form his with the name of the rational theology of conclusions,-nothing remains for us, but nature. In those days this rational theology an unconditional surrender of the mind to was unheard of; nor have we the slightest the subject of the message. We have a reason to believe that they were initiated right to sit in judgment over the credentials into its doctrines, before they were looked of heaven's ambassador, but we have no upon as fit to be taught the peculiarities of right to sit in judgment over the informa- the Gospel. They were translated at once tion he gives us. We have no right either from the absurdities of Paganism to that to refuse or to modify that information, till Christianity which has come down to us we have accommodated it to our previous in the records of the evangelical history, conceptions.
and the epistles which their teachers adIt is very true that if the truths which he dressed to them. They saw the miracles; delivered lay within the field of human ob- they acquiesced in them, as satisfying creservation, he brings himself under the tri- dentials of an inspired teacher; they took bunal of our antecedent knowledge. Were the whole of their religion from his mouth; he to tell us, that the bodies of the planetary their faith came by hearing, and hearing which are purely ose to him the ob
ents of astronomy
in winter the sun
Were he to tell us
the Deity, and brings
road upon all worlds
sit in judgment ore
limits of our astroom
than the foolenes of d we offer to resist ar strength of these con
by the words of a divine messenger. This the alone directory of our faith, where we
which it has imposed upon its speculative
de as unsound and as
the first Christians of
Their previous C
this rational theology
as come down w
evangelical history ch their teacher a ey saw the miracla, iem, as satisfying che d teacher; ther with igion from his mouth hearing, and heart
which philosophy opens to our contempla- evidence, that a falling stone proceeds from tion, throws our understanding at a greater the eruption of one of those volcanoes, and distance than before, from the mind and the chemistry of the moon will receive conception of the sublime Architect. In- more illustration from the analysis of that stead of the God of a single world, we now stone, than from all the speculations of all see him presiding in all the majesty of his the theorists. It brings the question in part high attributes, over a mighty range of in- within the limits observation. It now benumerable systems. To our little eye he comes a fair subject for the exercise of the is wrapt in more awful mysteriousness, and true philosophy. The eye can now see, every new glimpse which astronomy gives and the hand can now handle it; and the us of the universe, magnifies to the appre-information furnished by the laborious hension of our mind, that impassable bar- drudgery of experimental men, will be rerier which stands between the counsels of ceived as a truer document, than the theory its Sovereign, and those sugitive beings of any philosopher, however ingenious, or who strut their evanescent hour in the however splendid. humblest of its mansions. If this invisible At the hazard of being counted fanciful, Being would only break that mysterious si- we bring forward the above as a competent lence in which he has wrapt himself, we illustration of the principle which we are feel that a single word from his mouth, attempting to establish. We do all homage would be worth a world of darkling specu- to modern science, nor do we dispute the lations. Every new triumph which the loftiness of its pretensions. But we mainmind of man achieves in the field of dis- tain, that however brilliant its career in covery, binds us more firmly to our Bible; those tracks of philosophy, where it has the and by the very proportion in which philo- light of observation to conduct it, the philosophy multiplies the wonders of God, do we sophy of all that lies without the field of prize that book, on which the evidence of observation is as obscure and inaccesible as history has stamped the character of his au- ever. We maintain, that to pass from the thentic communication,
motions of the moon to an unauthorised The course of the moon in the heavens speculation upon the chemistry of its mahas exercised astronomers for a long se- terials, is a presumption disowned by phiries of ages, and now that they are able losophy. We ought to feel, that it would to assign all the irregularities of its period, be a still more glaring transgression of all it may be counted one of the most signal her maxims, to pass from the brightest triumphs of the modern philosophy. discovery in her catalogue, to the ways of
The question lay within the limits of the that mysterious Being, whom no eye hath field of observation. It was accessible to seen, and whose mind is capacious as inmeasurement, and, upon the sure principles finity. The splendour and the magnitude of calculation, men of science have brought of what we do know, can never authorise forward the confident solution of a problem, us to pronounce upon what we do not the most difficult and trying that ever was know ; nor can we conceive a transition submitted to the human intellect. But let more violent or more unwarrantable, than it never be forgotten, that those very max- to pass from the truths of natural sience to ims of philosophy which guided them so a speculation on the details of God's adminsurely and so triumphantly within the field istration, or on the economy of his moral of observation, also restrained them from government. We hear much of revelations stepping beyond it; and though none were from heaven. Let any one of these bear the more confident than they, whenever they evidence of an actual communication from had evidence and experiment to enlighten God himself, and all the reasonings of all them, yet none were more scrupulous in theologians must vanish, and give place to abstaining to pronounce upon any subject, the substance of this communication. Inwhere evidence and experiment were want- stead of theorising upon the nature and ing. Let us suppose that one of their num- properties of that divine light which irradiber, flushed with the triumph of success, ates the throne of God, and exists at so impassed on from the work of calculating the measurable a distance from our faculties, let periods of the moon, to theorise upon its us point our eyes to that emanation, which chemical constitution. The former ques- has actually come down to us. Instead of tion lies within the field of observation, the theorising upon the counsels of the divine other is most thoroughly beyond it; and mind, let us go to that volume which lightthere is not a man, whose mind is disciplin- ed upon vur world nearly two thousand ed to the rigour and sobriety of modern years ago, and which bears the most auscience, that would not look upon the theo- thentic evidence, that it is the depository ry with the same contempt, as if it were the of part of these counsels. Let us apply the dream of a poet, or the amusement of a proper instrument to this examination. Let schoolboy. We have heard much of the us never conceive it to be a work of specumoon, and of the volcanoes which blaze lation or fancy. It is a pure work of gramupon its surface. Let us have incontestiblel matical analysis. It is an unmixed question
alling stone proceeds from
The eye can now see,
-d of being counted fanciful rd the above as a competent che principle which we are stablish. We do all homage nce, nor do we dispute the pretensions. But we mainever brilliant its career in hilosophy, where it has the tion to conduct it, the phila wat lies without the field of as obscure and inaccesible is intain, that to pass from the
moon to an unauthorised on the chemistry of its mid
of language. The commentator who opens the act of renouncing its old habits of conthis book with the one hand, and carries his ception. We call upon our readers to have system in the other, has nothing to do with it. manhood and philosophy enough to make We admit of no other instrument than the a similar sacrifice. It is not enough that vocabulary and the lexicon. The man whom the Bible be acknowledged as the only auwe look to is the scripture critic, who can ap- thentic source of information respecting the peal to his authorities for the import and sig- details of that moral economy, which the nificancy of phrases, and whatever be the Supreme Being has instituted for the gostrict result of his patience and profound phi-vernment of the intelligent beings who oclology, we submit to it. We call upon every cupy this globe. Its authenticity must be enlightened disciple of Lord Bacon to ap- something more than acknowledged. It prove the steps of this process, and to ac- must be felt, and, in act and obedience, subknowledge, that the same habits of philoso- mitted to. Let us put them to the test. phising to which science is indebted for all “Verily I say unto you,” says our Saviour, her elevation in these latter days, will lead “unless a man shall be born again, he shall us to cast down all our lofty imaginations, not enter into the kingdom of God.” “By and bring into captivity every thought to grace ye are saved through faith, and that the obedience of Christ.
not of yourselves, it is the gist of God.". But something more remains to be done. "Justified freely by his grace through the The mind may have discernment enough redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom to acquiesce in the speculative justness of a God has set forth to be a propitiation principle; but it may not have vigour or through faith in his blood." We need not consistency enough to put it into execution. multiply quotations; but if there be any reLord Bacon pointed out the method of true pugnance to the obvious truths which we philosophising; yet, in practice, he abandon- have announced to the reader in the laned it, and his own physical investigations guage of the Bible, his mind is not yet tumay be ranked among the most effectual tored to the philosophy of the subject. It specimens of that rash and unfounded theo- may be in the way, but the final result is rising, which his own principles have ban- not yet arrived at. It is still a slave to the ished from the schools of philosophy. Sir elegance or the plausibility of its old specuIsaac Newton completed in his own per-lations; and though it admits the principle, son the character of the true philosopher. that every previous opinion must give way He not only saw the general principle, but to the supreme authority of an actual comhe obeyed it. He both betook himself to munication from God, it wants consistency the drudgery of observation, and he endured and hardihood to carry the principle into the pain which every mind must suffer in accomplishment.
esumption disowned by phi
ought to feel that it wouk
actual communication fra
ising upon the nature and
to that volume which light
counsels. Let us apply the
The astronomical objection against the truth of the Gospel does not occupy & very prominent place in any of our Treatises of Infidelity. It is often, however, met with in conversation-and we have known it to be the cause of serious perplexity and alarm in minds anxious for the solid establishment of their religious faith.
There is an imposing splendour in the science of astronomy; and it is not to be wondered at, if the light it throws, or appears to throw, over other tracks of speculation than those which are properly its own, should at times dazzle and mislead an inquirer. On this account we think it were a service to what we deem a true and a righteous cause, could we succeed in dissipating this illusion; and in stripping Infidelity of those pretensions to enlargement, and to a certain air of philosophical greatness, by which it has often become so destructively alluring to the young, and the ardent, and the ambitious.
In my first Discourse, I have attempted a sketch of the Modern Astronomynor have I wished to throw any disguise over that comparative littleness which belongs to our planet, and which gives to the argument of Freethinkers all its plausibility.
This argument involves in it an assertion and an inference. The assertion is, that Christianity is a religion which professes to be designed for the single benefit of our world, and the inference is, that God cannot be the author of this religion, for he would not lavish on so insignificant a field, such peculiar and such distinguishing attentions as are ascribed to him in the Old and New Testament.
Christianity makes no such profession. That it is designed for the single benefit of our world, is altogether a presumption of the Infidel himself and feeling that this is not the only example of temerity which can be charged on the enemies of our faith, I have allotted my second Discourse to the attempt of demonstrating the utter repugnance of such a spirit with the cautious and enlightened philosophy of modern times. .
In the course of this Sermon I have offered a tribute of acknowledgment to the theology of Sir Isaac Newton; and in such terms, as if not farther explained, may be liable to misconstruction. The grand circumstance of applause in the character of this great man, is, that unseduced by all the magnificence of his own discoveries, he had a solidity of mind which could resist their fascination, and keep him in steady attachment to that book whose general evidences stamped upon it the impress of a real communication from heaven. This was the sole attribute of his theology which I had in my eye when I presumed to eulogize it.