reasoning. If this be shown, his attack upon divine revelation, of course, fails, and that, too, without our having once admitted the possibility of a question as to the truth of the Bible. In this case, however, we only repel the attack.

But, if the doctrine, or the fact, urged by the infidel, be true, then by showing its consistency with the declarations of Scripture, we equally, as has been said, repel the attack, and, at the same time, we gain an additional positive corroboration of the truth of the Bible. The very doctrine which he affirms to be true, defends the faith which he supposed it would destroy. His own witnesses, not only fail to substantiate his cause, but bear positive testimony against him.

But, suppose the worst that can happen. Suppose that a principle or a fact is set in opposition against the Bible, and that the more thoroughly we investigate its relations, and the more carefully we weigh the evidence which bears upon it, the more we become convinced that that evidence will not permit us to deny, on scientific grounds, the truth of the principle in question. Suppose, too, that we cannot see how this principle can be reconciled with some passage of Scripture. What are we to do in such a case ?

We may, on the one hand, say, as has been too often said, " of the evidence which supports your proposition, we know and care nothing; but it is inconsistent with the declarations of the Bible, and therefore it cannot be true.” In this case, we take the very position which the infidel would have us take—the position which he has himself assumed; and we join in the false issue of which we have before spoken, staking the truth of the Bible on the falsehood of a proposition, which there is great reason to believe to be true. For we have proceeded upon the supposition that we were, in the first place, unable to show its falsehood.

But we may assume an entirely different position. We may say, “ The doctrine which you propose does indeed seem to be established; and we do not yet see how it can be reconciled with the teachings of the Bible. But, on the other hand, the truth of the Bible is sustained by an overwhelming mass of evidence, which renders it impossible for us to doubt or to disbelieve. At the same time, you do not know all the relations of your doctrine, and are not sure that you perfectly understand its bearing upon the passage of Scripture to which you think it opposed. . Nor is it certain, that you, or that we, correctly interpret that passage of Scripture, or that we understand its true bearing upoa the science in question. Your argument weighs nothing against the Bible, till you have not only proved the truth of your proposition, but have, moreover, not asserted, but proved, beyond a doubt, its essential and irreconcileable inconsistency with the declaration of Scripture.” THIRD SERIES, VOL. III. NO. 4.


When Copernicus announced his theory of the solar system, objectors said "If your scheme is correct, Venus should have phases like the Moon.” This was true. " An inferior person," says Nichol, “would at once have denied the fact,' and brought forward metaphysical reasons of a kind then much in vogue, why Venus should not be subject to such laws; but, after some wavering, our astronomer boldly acknowledged the accuracy of the deduction, and, in the finest spirit of prophecy, added without hesitation, that, should men ever see Venus better, they would discern her phases!

“He clung unshrinkingly by the grand truth, which had been revealed to him, and trusted the clearing a way of difficulties to a more instructed posterity."'*

Now this is the position we would take in the controversy with the infidel. We would admit, if need be, his scientific doctrines, and would say, like Copernicus, that when their relation to the Bible is better understood, we shall see that there is no disagreement. But, in taking such ground, we are assailed on another quarter; and are charged with deserting the cause of the Bible, and taking sides with infidelity. Some friends of the Bible, instead of endeavoring to show the consonance of the statements of revelation with other truth, have given their whole energy to an attempt to show,—what we have proposed that the infidel should be required to prove,-an irreconcileable enmity between the teachings of science and of revelation. And all, who have doubted the existence of such a discrepancy between science and revelation, or who have attempted to reconcile it, they have charged with actual, if not wilful, support of infidelity. And, when the possible propriety of a somewhat modified interpretation of a passage in the Bible has been suggested, the suggestion has been regarded as a direct attack upon the integrity of divine revelation, and, of course, upon the religion of the Bible ;-SO regarded, too, by men, who were themselves, every day, bringing forward new interpretations of various passages of Scripture.

But, however ready they may be to admit a modified interpretation, to correspond to new views of philology, or to increased knowledge of manners, customs and circumstances, they will tolerate no change, -however it may be authorized by the laws of language, -to bring the sacred record into conformity with the facts of science; in other words, with the actual condition and arrangement of the works of the Creator. They protest against any aid in the interpretation of Scripture being drawn from modern science; in other words, from known facts

“ Phenomena of the Solar System,” pp. 45-6. New York: 1843. The discovery of the phases of Venus, was, in fact, one of the first triumphs of the telescope, and achieved only a verv short time after the death of Copernicus.


in nature; and this, on the ground, that the inspired writers had no reference to modern sciences, nor any knowledge of the facts to which they relate. But, perhaps He who inspired “those writers,” had reference to such science, and had some knowledge of the facts which it exhibits. It will not, we suppose, be denied, that the sacred writers were instructed to write many things which they did not understand; or, that many things, which they wrote, are understood now, better and otherwise, than they were at the time when they were written, and even by the writers themselves. May not this be true, of what they have written in regard to scientific subjects ?

On this point, moreover, it is well remarked by Whewell, * that "the meaning which any generation puts upon the phrases of Scripture, depends, more than is at first sight supposed, upon the received philosophy of the time. Hence, while men imagine that they are contending for revelation, they are, in fact, contending for their own interpretation of revelation, unconsciously adapted to what they believe to be rationally probable.” No stronger example illustrative of this remark, can be cited, than the science of Astronomy, and the case of Galileo. The doctrines which he taught, and which were thought to be so opposed to revelation, are now universally believed; and no one dreams that they were, in the slightest degree, at variance with the meaning of the Scriptures.

It is also remarked by Whewell, “ that those who thus adhere tenaciously to the traditionary or arbitrary mode of understanding scriptural expressions of physical events, are always strongly condemned by succeeding generations. They are looked upon with contempt by the world at large, who cannot enter into the obsolete difficulties with which they encumbered themselves : and with pity, by the more considerate and serious, who know how much sagacity and right-mindedness are requisite for the conduct of philosophers and religious men on such occasions; but who know also, how weak and vain is the attempt to get rid of the difficulty, by merely denouncing the new tenets as inconsistent with religious belief, and by visiting the promulgators of them with severity, such as the state of opinions and institutions may allow. The prosecutors of Galileo are still held up to the scorn and aversion of mankind; although they did not act till it seemed that their position compelled them to do so, and then proceeded with all the gentleness and moderation which were compatible with judicial forms.”'

And with what feelings do such sticklers of former generations now regard themselves, and how do they look back, with the clear vision of a purer state, on their former position

History of the Inductive Sciences, vol. I, p. 403.

and conduct? They formerly condemned certain principles and doctrines as false; and dogmatically pronounced their truth inconsistent with the truth of God. Now they know the truth of those doctrines, and they associate with those who have known their truth for ages, and who have not only known their truth, and their consistency with the truth of God, but have seen, in them, most glorious exhibitions of the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator. It may indeed be true, that they had a "zeal for God," but they must be constrained to feel that it was “not according to knowledge."

And how will they appear before Him, whose wisdom and truth they have called in question, by declaring that the economy of the universe is inconsistent with the declarations of His word, and not worthy of His power ; that the word of infinite truth has given us an account of His works utterly inconsistent with the facts? Will he be pleased with their uncalled for defence of His cause? Verily we fear they will be found, like Uzzah, to have put forth unholy hands to sustain the ark of God.

It is forcibly and appropriately remarked by one,* “whose power of reasoning, and whose love of truth," are said by a most competent judget "to add dignity to the high station he so deservedly fills;» that, “as we must not dare to withhold or disguise religious truth, so we must dread the progress of no other truth. We must not imitate the bigoted Romanists, who imprisoned Galileo : and, step forward, Bible in hand, (like the profane Israelites, carrying the ark of God into the field of battle), to check the inquiries of the geologist, the astronomer, or the political economist, from an apprehension that the cause of religion can be endangered by them. Any theory, on whatever subject that is really sound, can never be inimical to a religion founded on truth : and any that is unsound, may be refuted by arguments drawn from observation and experiment, without calling in the aid of revelation. If we give way to a dread of danger from the inculcation of any scriptural doctrine, or from the progress of physical or moral science, we manifest a want of faith in God's power, or in His will, to maintain His own

That we shall indeed best further his cause by fearless perseverance in an open and straight course, I am firmly persuaded; but it is not only when we perceive the mischiefs of falsehood and disguise, and the beneficial tendency of fairness and candor, that we are to be followers of truth : the trial of our faith is, when we cannot perceive this: and the part of a lover of truth is to follow her at all seeming hazards, after the example of Him, who came into the world, that He might bear witness to the truth.'"


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]



By REV. S. M. SCHMUCKER, Germantown, Pa.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Ix examining the history of any remarkable movement which has occurred in the church of God, it is well to go to the fountain head, whence it issued, and ascertain the causes to whose operation it directly owes its existence. This process, which we imagine to be useful in any other case, is especially so in discussing the history and merits of Jansenism.

The various abuses which exist among men, are apt to find a remedy in their own insupportableness. A power and energy seem to pervade the world of mind and of matter, which serve as potent antidotes to those evils and perversions by which they may be afflicted. Thus, when the physical frame of man becomes overloaded with impurities, and clogged in its functions by accumulated obstructions, nature makes an effort to throw off the foreign bodies, and attain a state of purity and equilibrium. When the evils of social life become intolerable, when rulers become tyrannical, when laws become unjust, when extortioners become cruel, beyond human endurance, the result is, that the harassed and afflicted mass becomes desperate, puts forth frantic efforts for relief; and these must result, from their very violence, either in liberty or death, in deliverance or in dissolution. This is doubtless the philosophy of most of the revolutions which have occurred in human society. Like a ceaseless pendulum, abuses lead to diseases, these produce efforts after convalescence, this, when attained, occasions a repetition of undue indulgences, these produce the old abuses again, which, in their turn, lead on to the old revolutions.

This remark is eminently true in regard to the church of Christ. She has been established in a sinful world, and has ever been intimately associated with the weaknesses and sinister tendencies of the human heart. She will, indeed, exert a plastic power upon every spirit over which she is permitted to exercise an untrammeled sway; but the experience of all past ages has taught us, that men more frequently succeed in bending the genius of that religion to themselves, in impressing upon it their own spirit, and in moulding its outward development according to their own preferences, than the contrary. Accordingly Christianity exhibits different aspects to the student of its history, at different stages of its progress. At one period we find it enjoying the blessings of spiritual health; heresy is unknown, or

« VorigeDoorgaan »