Page images

now know the constituent elements of many. forms of existence, and the laws which determine change and continuance, as these were never previously known; and thus there has been vastly extended for us the range of recognized facts.

To this advance, the whole human race has to adapt itself. It is not merely one class of men, but all; not merely one department of thought, but all departments which must adjust themselves to this new order of things. Religious thought is not thrown into any singular position; it merely shares in the common experience, that is, the common advantage. And we may say religious thought is most prepared for the mighty revolution. This startling success in unlocking the mysteries of nature; this sudden accession to the wealth of our ideas, apt to have an intoxicating effect upon those who value science and nothing higher, awakens reverence and gratitude in the religious thinker. The greater the application of human intelligence to the study of nature, and the greater the discoveries which reward such labor, so much greater becomes the demand upon intelligence in accounting for the origin and continuance of the universe, involving innumerable phases of activity never to be witnessed by ordinary observers who are absorbed in their daily avocations. The supernatural is not more remote from us by such discoveries as science can boast, but is in reality brought nearer. The fancy that enlarged knowledge of the natural, is steadily driving before it all recognition of the supernatural, is one of which thinking men will by and by be ashamed. That men should consider the discovery of the component parts of certain forms of existence, or of the laws of well known movements, as a final disposal of the demands of intelligence, only shows how little the intellect of inquirers has been prepared for appreciation of the full demands of reason. In this connection, it should be remembered that the most profoundly scientific, have been the most cautious, least inclined to boast of discovery, or to anticipate the overthrow of the deeper convictions of the moral and spiritual life, which, as the necessaries of life in all ages, are least liable to be touched by any thing belonging to the region of science. Even after every allowance has been made for sanguine and passionate temperament, and for reaction against untenable forms of religious belief among opponents of religion,* the award can not be otherwise than suggested. The facts are already on record bearing on the most testing period,—• the transition from an old and restricted knowledge, to a new and greatly enlarged knowledge of the universe,—and the roll of names standing high in the annals of science, while devoted to religious faith and practice, may be accepted as a reasonable forecast of coming results.f

That greater knowledge of nature by discovery of the natural causes in operation, intensifies the rational demand for recognition of Supernatural Intelligence, is the position to be maintained throughout this argument. The most rigid test of this position is to be found in the outstanding scientific conceptions concerning inorganic and organic nature, and the contrasts recognized between lower and higher organisms. The order most suitable for application of this test is progress upwards from the most subordinate forms of

* These allowances may well be made for Professor Clifford, one of the most extravagant assailants of religious faith.

f Professor Tait in answer to Mr. Froude has advanced the evidence. International Bevieto, Nov. 1878, vol. v. No. 6. The collected papers have been republished, Atlas Series, No. 11.

existence to the most complex organism. A beginning will, therefore, be made with the inorganic world, after which lower organisms may be considered, after that the relative place of higher organisms, and finally the whole class of questions concerning the powers and requirements of mind. In each of these relations, I desire to inquire into the reasonableness of our acknowledgment of the supernatural.

As the world presents a vast range of inorganic existence, we have to consider the most prominent scientific conceptions concerning inorganic elements, as these afford a general view of the material structure of the earth.

Concentrating on this region of observation, and taking no account, meanwhile, of the manifold phases of life, there are two forms of existence to be recognized, Matter and Energy. Matter is solid, visible, tangible; Energy is invisible and intangible, but measurable by the work it is capable of doing. The one may be represented as the solid inert mass, the other as the moving power whose action is the source of continual change. This duality we must regard as essential to the structure of the universe, for it is impossible to identify the two, so as to regard the world as merely, a mass of matter. This duality is now commonly admitted as the result of recent scientific investigations. To quote the words of Professor Tait,—"It is only within comparatively recent years that it has been generally recognized that there is something else in the physical universe which possesses to the full as high a claim to objective reality as matter possesses, though it is by no means so tangible, and therefore the conception of it was much longer in forcing itself upon the human mind." * This is Energy. "Just as gold, lead, oxygen, etc., are different kinds of matter, so sound, light, heat, etc., are now ranked as different forms of energy." f

Here, then, is one of the conspicuous results of recent scientific research to which all our thoughts and theories need to adapt themselves. And it must be obvious without argumentation, that theological thought will not experience any serious shock, or

* Recent Advances in Physical Science, by P. G. Tait, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, p. 17. t lb. p. 2.

« PreviousContinue »