Page images

ence. These conflicts were in the strictest sense inevitable, simply because thought and discovery have been progressive; and it is impossible for those not personally engaged in research to accept without reluctance new representations of familiar facts. If men long continued unwilling to admit that the earth moves round the sun, and that the rising and setting of the luminary are delusions, while the succession of light and darkness is real, we can not wonder at this slowness of assent, or charge it to the power of religious thought. The conflict was not between religion and science, but between popular notions and scientific observations. Often in the earlier periods of awakened thought, following the slumber of the middle ages, the contest accidentally wore a religious aspect, but it was so only because the higher intelligence and the general work of instruction belonged to the religious orders.

If, however, we give due weight to historical facts, it will appear that the rectification of common thought as to the form of the earth, and its place in relation to the heavenly bodies, was achieved through the conflict of a later science with an earlier. Science has first taught one thing, and then abandoned its old positions to teach something different, and if religious thought was at times found in the ranks of the antagonists of change, it was only as the popular thought was opposed, and as all had been placed in opposition by the earlier forms of scientific teaching. We rightly interpret the facts, only in representing that science both makes its own difficulties and clears them; first presents the imperfect or erroneous views which are to be swept away, and afterwards trains men to more careful sifting of evidence and exercise of thought, thereby clearing and widening its own path.

Thus are we enabled to trace the boundaries of two distinct regions of thought, closely related, yet clearly separated. Science can not do the work of religion, nor can religion do the work of science. Bach must fulfil its own part, and abide its proper tests. Science has its own place and its own task. Religion will simply wait upon science, leaving it to make its own discoveries, gladly accepting each one of them as it is established. The most reverend students of the Bible do not regard it as a revelation presenting a key to scientific research; though they do not hesitate to express their conviction that neither in express statement, nor in the spirit inculcated, does it place itself in antagonism to the search for truth, or the claims of any conclusions which can be legitimately described as philosophical or scientific. But its upholders press this consideration specially on scientific men, that the Bible has this title to be regarded as a book for all nations and for all ages, that it has proved itself intelligible to men in ages the least enlightened, and has also maintained a commanding influence in ages specially distinguished and favored by the advance of science and the widening power of literature. LECTURE III.


TN view of the wide range of materials at command, and the limits of the present inquiry, there is need for some definite method of selection, which may secure a careful, though necessarily very general survey of the whole ground. That which seems to give most promise of meeting these requirements is the contemplation in order of the great leading conceptions which have received prominence within recent years in consequence of continued research under strictly scientific methods. These may be said to constitute the scientific revolution of the nineteenth century, giving occasion for reconstructing the popular conceptions of the universe. They claim to mark the truly scientific period, inaugurated by command of instruments never before within reach, allowing an immense advance in the modes of research, and placing the secrets of nature within compass of human observation as they had never been before. The intel lectual conditions for observation and inference no doubt remain simply what they have been; the laws of intelligent inquiry are the same, determining sufficiency of evidence, and trustworthiness in reasoning; but the range of observation has been indefinitely multiplied, and things transcending previous conjecture have become matters of certain observation. The telescope and the microscope provided for this revolution. They brought the universe within range as it had never previously been, and thus making an enormous addition to the sum of human knowledge, suggested new modes of contemplating and explaining the facts which had been familiar through all the ages. There can be no reversal of all this—no return on the old methods. Nor can there be reversal in the sense of overturning presently recognized conclusions. There are indeed hosts of theories of which it may be safely predicted that they will be overturned and forgotten; but a veritable knowledge has been acquired, which will certainly be preserved among the treasures of the race. We

« PreviousContinue »