NATURAL Law is a new word. It is the last and the most magnificent discovery of science. No more telling proof is open to the modern world of the greatness of the idea than the greatness of the attempts which have always been made to justify it. In the earlier centuries, before the birth of science, Phenomena were studied alone. The world then was a chaos, a collection of single, isolated, and independent facts. Deeper thinkers saw, indeed, that relations must subsist between these facts, but the Reign of Law was never more to the ancients than a far-off vision. Their philosophies, conspicuously those of the Stoics and Pythagoreans, heroically sought to marshal the discrete materials of the universe into thinkable form, but from these artificial and fantastic systems nothing remains to us now but an ancient testimony to the grandeur of that harmony which they failed to reach.
With Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler the first regular lines of the universe began to be discerned. When Nature yielded to Newton her great secret, Gravitation was felt to be not greater as a fact in itself than as a revelation that Law was fact. And thenceforth the search for individual Phenomena gave way before the larger study of their relations. The pursuit of Law became the passion of science.
What that discovery of Law has done for Nature, it is impossible to estimate. As a mere spectacle the universe to-day discloses a beauty so transcendent that he who disciplines himself by scientific work finds it an overwhelming reward simply to behold it. In these Laws one stands face to face with truth, solid and unchangeable. Each single Law is an instrument of scientific research, simple in its adjustments, universal in its application, infallible in its results. And despite the limitations of its sphere on every side Law is still the largest, richest, and surest source of human knowledge.
It is not necessary for the present to more than lightly touch on definitions of Natural Law. The Duke of Argyll indicates five senses in which the word is used, but we may content ourselves here by taking it in its most simple and obvious significance. The fundamental conception of Law is an ascertained working sequence or constant order among the Phenomena of Nature. This impression of Law as order it is important to receive in its simplicity, for the idea is often corrupted by having attached to it erroneous views of cause and effect. In its true sense Natural Law predicates nothing of causes. The Laws of Nature are simply statements of the orderly condition of things in Nature, what is found in Nature by a sufficient number of competent observers. What these Laws are in themselves is not agreed. That they have any absolute existence even is far from certain. They are relative to man in his many limitations, and represent for him the constant expression of what he may always expect to find in the world around him. But that they have any causal connection with the things around him is not to be conceived. The Natural Laws originate nothing, sustain nothing; they are merely responsible for uniformity in sustaining what has been originated and what is being sustained. They are modes of operation, therefore, not operators; processes, not powers. The Law of Gravitation, for instance, speaks to science only of process. It has no light to offer as to itself. Newton did not discover Gravity -- that is not discovered yet. He discovered its Law, which is Gravitation, but that tells us nothing of its origin, of its nature, or of its cause.
The Natural Laws then are great lines running not only through the world, but, as we now know, through the universe, reducing it like parallels of latitude to intelligent order. In themselves, be it once more repeated, they may have no more absolute existence than parallels of latitude. But they exist for us. They are drawn for us to understand the part by some Hand that drew the whole; so drawn, perhaps, that, understanding the part, we too in time may learn to understand the whole. Now the inquiry we propose to ourselves resolves itself into the simple question, Do these lines stop with what we call the Natural sphere? Is it not possible that they may lead further? Is it probable that the Hand which ruled them gave up the work where most of all they were required? Did that Hand divide the world into two, a cosmos and a chaos, the higher being the chaos? With Nature as the symbol of all of harmony and beauty that is known to man, must we still talk of the super-natural, not as a convenient word, but as a different order of world, an unintelligible world, where the Reign of Mystery supersedes the Reign of Law?
This question, let it be carefully observed, applies to Laws not to Phenomena. That the Phenomena of the Spiritual World are in analogy with the Phenomena of the Natural World requires no restatement. Since Plato enunciated his doctrine of the Cave or of the twice-divided line; since Christ spake in parables; since Plotinus wrote of the world as an imaged image; since the mysticism of Swedenborg; since Bacon and Pascal; since |Sartor Resartus| and |In Memoriam,| it has been all but a commonplace with thinkers that |the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.| Milton's question --
|What if earth
Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein
Each to other like more than on earth is thought?|
is now superfluous. |In our doctrine of representations and correspondences,| says Swedenborg, |we shall treat of both these symbolical and typical resemblances, and of the astonishing things that occur, I will not say in the living body only, but throughout Nature, and which correspond so entirely to supreme and spiritual things, that one would swear that the physical world was purely symbolical of the spiritual world. | And Carlyle: |All visible things are emblems. What thou seest is not there on its own account; strictly speaking is not there at all. Matter exists only spiritually, and to represent some idea and body it forth.|
But the analogies of Law are a totally different thing from the analogies of Phenomena and have a very different value. To say generally, with Pascal, that |La nature est une image de la grace,| is merely to be poetical. The function of Hervey's |Meditations in a Flower Garden,| or, Flavel's |Husbandry Spiritualized,| is mainly homiletical. That such works have an interest is not to be denied. The place of parable in teaching, and especially after the sanction of the greatest of Teachers, must always be recognised. The very necessities of language indeed demand this method of presenting truth. The temporal is the husk and framework of the eternal, and thoughts can be uttered only through things.
But analogies between Phenomena bear the same relation to analogies of Law that Phenomena themselves bear to Law. The light of Law on truth, as we have seen, is an immense advance upon the light of Phenomena. The discovery of Law is simply the discovery of Science. And if the analogies of Natural Law can be extended to the Spiritual World, that whole region at once falls within the domain of science and secures a basis as well as an illumination in the constitution and course of Nature. All, therefore, that has been claimed for parable can be predicated a fortiori of this -- with the addition that a proof on the basis of Law would want no criterion possessed by the most advanced science.
That the validity of analogy generally has been seriously questioned one must frankly own. Doubtless there is much difficulty and even liability to gross error in attempting to establish analogy in specific cases. The value of the likeness appears differently to different minds, and in discussing an individual instance questions of relevancy will invariably crop up. Of course, in the language of John Stuart Mill, |when the analogy can be proved, the argument founded upon it cannot be resisted.| But so great is the difficulty of proof that many are compelled to attach the most inferior weight to analogy as a method of reasoning.| Analogical evidence is generally more successful in silencing objections than in evincing truth. Though it rarely refutes it frequently repels refutation; like those weapons which though they cannot kill the enemy, will ward his blows. . . . It must be allowed that analogical evidence is at least but a feeble support, and is hardly ever honoured with the name of proof.| Other authorities on the other hand, such as Sir William Hamilton, admit analogy to a primary place in logic and regard it as the very basis of induction.
But, fortunately, we are spared all discussion on this worn subject, for two cogent reasons. For one thing, we do not demand of Nature directly to prove Religion. That was never its function. Its function is to interpret. And this, after all, is possibly the most fruitful proof. The best proof of a thing is that we see it; if we do not see it, perhaps proof will not convince us of it. It is the want of the discerning faculty, the clairvoyant power of seeing the eternal in the temporal, rather than the failure of the reason, that begets the sceptic. But secondly, and more particularly, a significant circumstance has to be taken into account, which, though it will appear more clearly afterwards, may be stated here at once. The position we have been led to take up is not that the Spiritual Laws are analogous to the Natural Laws, but that, they are the same Laws. It is not a question of analogy but of Identity. The Natural Laws are not the shadows or images of the Spiritual in the same sense as autumn is emblematical of Decay, or the falling leaf of Death. The Natural Laws, as the Law of Continuity might well warn us, do not stop with the visible and then give place to a new set of Laws bearing a strong similitude to them. The Laws of the invisible are the same Laws, projections of the natural not supernatural. Analogous Phenomena are not the fruit of parallel Laws, but of the same Laws -- Laws which at one end, as it were, may be dealing with Matter, at the other end with Spirit. As there will be some inconvenience, however, in dispensing with the word analogy, we shall continue occasionally to employ it. Those who apprehend the real relation will mentally substitute the larger term.
Let us now look for a moment at the present state of the question. Can it be said that the Laws of the Spiritual World are in any sense considered even to have analogies with the Natural World? Here and there certainly one finds an attempt, and a successful attempt, to exhibit on a rational basis one or two of the great Moral Principles of the Spiritual World. But the Physical World has not been appealed to. Its magnificent system of Laws remains outside, and its contribution meanwhile is either silently ignored or purposely set aside. The Physical, it is said, is too remote from the Spiritual. The Moral World may afford a basis for religious truth, but even this is often the baldest concession; while the appeal to the Physical universe is everywhere dismissed as, on the face of it, irrelevant and unfruitful. From the scientific side, again, nothing has been done to court a closer fellowship. Science has taken theology at its own estimate. It is a thing apart. The Spiritual World is not only a different world, but a different kind of world, a world arranged on a totally different principle, under a different governmental scheme.
The Reign of Law has gradually crept into every department of Nature, transforming knowledge everywhere into Science. The process goes on, and Nature slowly appears to us as one great unity, until the borders of the Spiritual World are reached. There the Law of Continuity ceases, and the harmony breaks down. And men who have learned their elementary lessons truly from the alphabet of the lower Laws, going on to seek a higher knowledge, are suddenly confronted with the Great Exception.
Even those who have examined most carefully the relations of the Natural and the Spiritual, seem to have committed themselves deliberately to a final separation in matters of Law. It is a surprise to find such a writer as Horace Bushnell, for instance, describing the Spiritual World as |another system of nature incommunicably separate from ours,| and further defining it thus: |God has, in fact, erected another and higher system, that of spiritual being and government for which nature exists; a system not under the law of cause and effect, but ruled and marshalled under other kinds of laws.| Few men have shown more insight than Bushnell in illustrating Spiritual truth from the Natural World; but he has not only failed to perceive the analogy with regard to Law, but emphatically denies it.
In the recent literature of this whole region there nowhere seems any advance upon the position of |Nature and the Supernatural.| All are agreed in speaking of Nature and the Supernatural. Nature in the Supernatural, so far as Laws are concerned, is still an unknown truth.
|The Scientific Basis of Faith| is a suggestive title. The accomplished author announces that the object of his investigation is to show that |the world of nature and mind, as made known by science, constitute a basis and a preparation for that highest moral and spiritual life of man, which is evoked by the self-revelation of God.| On the whole, Mr. Murphy seems to be more philosophical and more profound in his view of the relation of science and religion than any writer of modern times. His conception of religion is broad and lofty, his acquaintance with science adequate. He makes constant, admirable, and often original use of analogy; and yet, in spite of the promise of this quotation, he has failed to find any analogy in that department of Law where surely, of all others, it might most reasonably be looked for. In the broad subject even of the analogies of what he defines as |evangelical religion| with Nature, Mr. Murphy discovers nothing. Nor can this be traced either to short-sight or over-sight. The subject occurs to him more than once, and he deliberately dismisses it -- dismisses it not merely as unfruitful, but with a distinct denial of its relevancy. The memorable paragraph from Origen which forms the text of Butler's |Analogy,| he calls |this shallow and false saying| He says: |The designation of Butler's scheme of religious philosophy ought then to be the analogy of religion, legal and evangelical, to the constitution of nature. But does this give altogether a true meaning? Does this double analogy really exist? If justice is natural law among beings having a moral nature, there is the closest analogy between the constitution of nature and merely legal religion. Legal religion is only the extension of natural justice into a future life. . . . But is this true of evangelical religion? Have the doctrines of Divine grace any similar support in the analogies of nature? I trow not.| And with reference to a specific question, speaking of immortality, he asserts that |the analogies of mere nature are opposed to the doctrine of immortality.|
With regard to Butler's great work in this department, it is needless at this time of day to point out that his aims did not lie exactly in this direction. He did not seek to indicate analogies between religion and the constitution and course of Nature. His theme was, |The Analogy of Religion to the constitution and course of Nature.| And although he pointed out direct analogies of Phenomena, such as those between the metamorphoses of insects and the doctrine of a future state; and although he showed that |the natural and moral constitution and government of the world are so connected as to make up together but one scheme,| his real intention was not so much to construct arguments as to repel objections. His emphasis accordingly was laid upon the difficulties of the two schemes rather than on their positive lines; and so thoroughly has he made out his point, that as is well known, the effect upon many has been, not to lead them to accept the Spiritual World on the ground of the Natural, but to make them despair of both. Butler lived at a time when defence was more necessary than construction, when the materials for construction were scarce and insecure, and when, besides. some of the things to be defended were quite incapable of defence. Notwithstanding this, his influence over the whole field since has been unparalleled.
After all, then, the Spiritual World, as it appears at this moment, is outside Natural Law. Theology continues to be considered, as it has always been, a thing apart. It remains still a stupendous and splendid construction, but on lines altogether its own. Nor is Theology to be blamed for this. Nature has been long in speaking; even yet its voice is low, sometimes inaudible. Science is the true defaulter, for Theology had to wait patiently for its development. As the highest of the sciences, Theology in the order of evolution should be the last to fall into rank. It is reserved for it to perfect the final harmony. Still, if it continues longer to remain a thing apart, with increasing reason will be such protests as this of the |Unseen Universe,| when, in speaking of a view of miracles held by an older Theology, it declares: -- |If he submits to be guided by such interpreters, each intelligent being will for ever continue to be baffled in any attempt to explain these phenomena, because they are said to have no physical relation to anything that went before or that followed after; in fine, they are made to form a universe within a universe, a portion cut off by an insurmountable barrier from the domain of scientific inquiry.|
This is the secret of the present decadence of Religion in the world of Science. For Science can hear nothing of a Great Exception. Constructions on unique lines, |portions cut off by an insurmountable barrier from the domain of scientific inquiry,| it dare not recognise. Nature has taught it this lesson, and Nature is right. It is the province of Science to vindicate Nature here at any hazard. But in blaming Theology for its intolerance, it has been betrayed into an intolerance less excusable. It has pronounced upon it too soon. What if Religion be yet brought within the sphere of Law? Law is the revelation of time. One by one slowly through the centuries the Sciences have crystallized into geometrical form, each form not only perfect in itself, but perfect in its relation to all other forms. Many forms had to be perfected before the form of the Spiritual. The Inorganic has to be worked out before the Organic, the Natural before the Spiritual. Theology at present has merely an ancient and provisional philosophic form. By-and-by it will be seen whether it be not susceptible of another. For Theology must pass through the necessary stages of progress, like any other science. The method of science-making is now fully established. In almost all cases the natural history and development are the same. Take, for example, the case of Geology. A century ago there was none. Science went out to look for it, and brought back a Geology which, if Nature were a harmony, had falsehood written almost on its face. It was the Geology of Catastrophism, a Geology so out of line with Nature as revealed by the other sciences, that on a priori grounds a thoughtful mind might have been justified in dismissing it as a final form of any science. And its fallacy was soon and thoroughly exposed. The advent of modified uniformitarian principles all but banished the word catastrophe from science, and marked the birth of Geology as we know it now. Geology, that is to say, had fallen at last into the great scheme of Law. Religious doctrines, many of them at least, have been up to this time all but as catastrophic as the old Geology. They are not on the lines of Nature as we have learned to decipher her. If any one feel, as Science complains that it feels, that the lie of things in the Spiritual World as arranged by Theology is not in harmony with the world around, is not, in short, scientific, he is entitled to raise the question whether this be really the final form of those departments of Theology to which his complaint refers, He is justified, moreover, in demanding a new investigation with all modern methods and resources; and Science is bound by its principles not less than by the lessons of its own past, to suspend. judgment till the last attempt is made. The success of such an attempt will be looked forward to with hopefulness or fearfulness just in proportion to one's confidence in Nature -- in proportion to one's belief in the divinity of man and in the divinity of things. If there is any truth in the unity of Nature, in that supreme principle of Continuity which is growing in splendour with every discovery of science, the conclusion is foregone. If there is any foundation for Theology, if the phenomena of the Spiritual World are real, in the nature of things they ought to come into the sphere of Law. Such is at once the demand of Science upon Religion and the prophecy that it can and shall be fulfilled.
The Botany of Linnaeus, a purely artificial system, was a splendid contribution to human knowledge, and did more in its day to enlarge the view of the vegetable kingdom than all that had gone before. But all artificial systems must pass away. None knew better than the great Swedish naturalist himself that his system, being artificial, was but provisional. Nature must be read in its own light. And as the botanical field became more luminous, the system of Jussieu and De Candolle slowly emerged as a native growth, unfolded itself as naturally as the petals of one of its own flowers, and forcing itself upon men's intelligence as the very voice of Nature, banished the Linnaean system for ever. It were unjust to say that the present Theology is as artificial as the system of Linnaeus; in many particulars it wants but a fresh expression to make it in the most modern sense scientific. But if it has a basis in the constitution and course of Nature, that basis has never been adequately shown. It has depended on Authority rather than on Law; and a new basis must be sought and found if it is to be presented to those with whom Law alone is Authority.
It is not of course to be inferred that the scientific method will ever abolish the radical distinctions of the Spiritual World. True science proposes to itself no such general levelling in any department. Within the unity of the whole there must always be room for the characteristic differences of the parts, and those tendencies of thought at the present time which ignore such distinctions, in their zeal for simplicity really create confusion. As has been well said by Mr. Hutton: |Any attempt to merge the distinctive characteristic of a higher science in a lower -- of chemical changes in mechanical -- of physiological in chemical -- above all, of mental changes in physiological -- is a neglect of the radical assumption of all science, because it is an attempt to deduce representations -- or rather misrepresentations -- of one kind of phenomenon from a conception of another kind which does not contain it, and must have it implicitly and illicitly smuggled in before it can be extracted out of it. Hence, instead of increasing our means of representing the universe to ourselves without the detailed examination of particulars, such a procedure leads to misconstructions of fact on the basis of an imported theory, and generally ends in forcibly perverting the least-known science to the type of the better known.|
What is wanted is simply a unity of conception, but not such a unity of conception as should be founded on an absolute identity of phenomena. This latter might indeed be a unity, but it would be a very tame one The perfection of unity is attained where there is infinite variety of phenomena, infinite complexity of relation, but great simplicity of Law. Science will be complete when all known phenomena can be arranged in one vast circle in which a few well known Laws shall form the radii -- these radii at once separating and uniting, separating into particular groups, yet uniting all to a common centre. To show that the radii for some of the most characteristic phenomena of the Spiritual World are already drawn within that circle by science is the main object of the papers which follow. There will be found an attempt to re-state a few of the more elementary facts of the Spiritual Life in terms of Biology. Any argument for Natural Law in the Spiritual World may be best tested in the a posteriori form. And although the succeeding pages are not designed in the first instance to prove a principle, they may yet be entered here as evidence. The practical test is a severe one, but on that account all the more satisfactory.
And what will be gained if the point be made out? Not a few things. For one, as partly indicated already, the scientific demand of the age will be satisfied. That demand is that all that concerns life and conduct shall be placed on a scientific basis. The only great attempt to meet that at present is Positivism.
But what again is a scientific basis? What exactly is this demand of the age? |By Science I understand,| says Huxley, |all knowledge which rests upon evidence and reasoning of a like character to that which claims our assent to ordinary scientific propositions; and if any one is able to make good the assertion that his theology rests upon valid evidence and sound reasoning, then it appears to me that such theology must take its place as a part of science.| That the assertion has been already made good is claimed by many who deserve to be heard on questions of scientific evidence. But if more is wanted by some minds, more not perhaps of a higher kind but of a different kind, at least the attempt can be made to gratify them. Mr. Frederic Harrison, in name of the Positive method of thought, |turns aside from ideal standards which avow themselves to be lawless [the italics are Mr. Harrison's], which profess to transcend the field of law. We say, life and conduct shall stand for us wholly on a basis of law, and must rest entirely in that region of science (not physical, but moral and social science) where we are free to use our intelligence, in the methods known to us as intelligible logic, methods which the intellect can analyse. When you confront us with hypotheses, however sublime and however affecting, if they cannot be stated in terms of the rest of our knowledge, if they are disparate to that world of sequence and sensation which to us is the ultimate base of all our real knowledge, then we shake our heads and turn aside.| This is a most reasonable demand, and we humbly accept the challenge. We think religious truth, or at all events certain of the largest facts of the Spiritual Life, can be stated |in terms of the rest of our knowledge.|
We do not say, as already hinted, that the proposal includes an attempt to prove the existence of the Spiritual World. Does that need proof? And if so, what sort of evidence would be considered in court? The facts of the Spiritual World are as real to thousands as the facts of the Natural World -- and more real to hundreds. But were one asked to prove that the Spiritual World can be discerned by the appropriate faculties, one would do it precisely as one would attempt to prove the Natural World to be an object of recognition to the senses -- and with as much or as little success. In either instance probably the fact would be found incapable of demonstration, but not more in the one case than in the other. Were one asked to prove the existence of Spiritual Life, one would also do it exactly as one would seek to prove Natural Life. And this perhaps might be attempted with more hope. But this is not on the immediate programme. Science deals with known facts; and accepting certain known facts in the Spiritual World we proceed to arrange them, to discover their Laws, to inquire if they can be stated |in terms of the rest of our knowledge.|
At the same time, although attempting no philosophical proof of the existence of a Spiritual Life and a Spiritual World, we are not without hope that the general line of thought here may be useful to some who are honestly inquiring in these directions. The stumbling-block to most minds is perhaps less the mere existence of the unseen than the want of definition, the apparently hopeless vagueness, and not least, the delight in this vagueness as mere vagueness by some who look upon this as the mark of quality in Spiritual things. It will be at least something to tell earnest seekers that the Spiritual World is not a castle in the air, of an architecture unknown to earth or heaven, but a fair ordered realm furnished with many familiar things and ruled by well-remembered Laws.
It is scarcely necessary to emphasise under a second head the gain in clearness. The Spiritual World as it stands is full of perplexity. One can escape doubt only by escaping thought. With regard to many important articles of religion perhaps the best and the worst course at present open to a doubter is simple credulity. Who is to answer for this state of things? It comes as a necessary tax for improvement on the age in which we live. The old ground of faith, Authority, is given up; the new, Science, has not yet taken its place. Men did not require to see truth before; they only needed to believe it. Truth, therefore, had not been put by Theology in a seeing form -- which, however, was its original form. But now they ask to see it. And when it is shown them they start back in despair. We shall not say what they see. But we shall say what they might see. If the Natural Laws were run through the Spiritual World, they might see the great lines of religious truth as clearly and simply as the broad lines of science. As they gazed into that Natural-Spiritual World they would say to themselves, |We have seen something like this before. This order is known to us. It is not arbitrary. This Law here is that old Law there, and this Phenomenon here, what can it be but that which stood in precisely the same relation to that Law yonder?| And so gradually from the new form everything assumes new meaning. So the Spiritual World becomes slowly Natural; and, what is of all but equal moment, the Natural World becomes slowly Spiritual. Nature is not a mere image or emblem of the Spiritual. It is a working model of the Spiritual. In the Spiritual World the same wheels revolve -- but without the iron. The same figures flit across the stage, the same processes of growth go on, the same functions are discharged, the same biological laws prevail -- only with a different quality of Bios. Plato's prisoner, if not out of the Cave, has at least his face to the light.
|The earth is cram'd with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God.|
How much of the Spiritual World is covered by Natural law we do not propose at present to inquire. It is certain, at least, that the whole is not covered. And nothing more lends confidence to the method than this. For one thing, room is still left for mystery. Had no place remained for mystery it had proved itself both unscientific and irreligious. A Science without mystery is unknown; a Religion without mystery is absurd. This is no attempt to reduce Religion to a question of mathematics, or demonstrate God in biological formulae. The elimination of mystery from the universe is the elimination of Religion. However far the scientific method may penetrate the Spiritual World, there will always remain a region to be explored by a scientific faith. |I shall never rise to the point of view which wishes to `raise ` faith to knowledge. To me, the way of truth is to come through the knowledge of my ignorance to the submissiveness of faith, and then, making that my starting place, to raise my knowledge into faith.|
Lest this proclamation of mystery should seem alarming, let us add that this mystery also is scientific. The one subject on which all scientific men are agreed the one theme on which all alike become eloquent, the one strain of pathos in all their writing and speaking and thinking, concerns that final uncertainty, that utter blackness of darkness bounding their work on every side. If the light of Nature is to illuminate for us the Spiritual Sphere, there may well be a black Unknown, corresponding, at least at some points, to this zone of darkness round the Natural World.
But the final gain would appear in the department of Theology. The establishment of the Spiritual Laws on |the solid ground of Nature,| to which the mind trusts |which builds for aye,| would offer a new basis for certainty in Religion. It has been indicated that the authority of Authority is waning This is a plain fact. And it was inevitable. Authority -- man's Authority, that is -- is for children. And there necessarily comes a time when they add to the question, What shall I do? or, What shall I believe? the adult's interrogation -- Why? Now this question is sacred, and must be answered.
|How truly its central position is impregnable,| Herbert Spencer has well discerned, |religion has never adequately realized. In the devoutest faith, as we habitually see it, there lies hidden an innermost core of scepticism; and it is this scepticism which causes that dread of inquiry displayed by religion when face to face with science.| True indeed; Religion has never realized how impregnable are many of its positions. It has not yet been placed on that basis which would make them impregnable. And in a transition period like the present, holding Authority with one hand, the other feeling all around in the darkness for some strong new support, Theology is surely to be pitied. Whence this dread when brought face to face with Science? It cannot be dread of scientific fact. No single fact in Science has ever discredited a fact in Religion. The theologian knows that, and admits that he has no fear of facts. What then has Science done to make Theology tremble? It is its method. It is its system. It is its Reign of Law. It is its harmony and continuity. The attack is not specific. No one point is assailed. It is the whole system which when compared with the other and weighed in its balance is found wanting. An eye which has looked at the first cannot look upon this. To do that, and rest in the contemplation, it has just to uncentury itself.
Herbert Spencer points out further, with how much truth need not now be discussed, that the purificatlon of Religion has always come from Science. It is very apparent at all events that an immense debt must soon be contracted The shifting of the furnishings will be a work of time. But it must be accomplished. And not the least result of the process will be the effect upon Science itself. No department of knowledge ever contributes to another without receiving its own again with usury -- witness the reciprocal favours of Biology and Sociology. From the time that Comte defined the analogy between the phenomena exhibited by aggregations of associated men and those of animal colonies, the Science of Life and the Science of Society have been so contributing to one another that their progress since has been all but hand-in-hand. A conception borrowed by the one has been observed in time finding its way back, and always in an enlarged form, to further illuminate and enrich the field it left. So must it be with Science and Religion. If the purification of Religion comes from Science, the purification of Science, in a deeper sense, shall come from Religion. The true ministry of Nature must at last be honoured, and Science take its place as the great expositor. To Men of Science, not less than to Theologians,
Shall be a precious visitant; and then,
And only then, be worthy of her name:
For then her heart shall kindle, her dull eye,
Dull and inanimate, no more shall hang
Chained to its object in brute slavery;
But taught with patient interest to watch
The process of things, and serve the cause
Of order and distinctness, not for this
Shall it forget that its most noble use,
Its most illustrious province, must be found
In furnishing clear guidance, a support,
Not treacherous, to the mind's excursive power.|
But the gift of Science to Theology shall be not less rich. With the inspiration of Nature to illuminate what the inspiration of Revelation has left obscure, heresy in certain whole departments shall become impossible. With the demonstration of the naturalness of the supernatural, scepticism even may come to be regarded as unscientific. And those who have wrestled long for a few bare truths to ennoble life and rest their souls in thinking of the future will not be left in doubt.
It is impossible to believe that the amazing succession of revelations in the domain of Nature during the last few centuries, at which the world has all but grown tired wondering, are to yield nothing for the higher life. If the development of doctrine is to have any meaning for the future, Theology must draw upon the further revelation of the seen for the further revelation of the unseen. It need, and can, add nothing to fact; but as the vision of Newton rested on a clearer and richer world than that of Plato, so, though seeing the same things in the Spiritual World as our fathers, we may see them clearer and richer. With the work of the centuries upon it, the mental eye is a finer instrument, and demands a more ordered world. Had the revelation of Law been given sooner, it had been unintelligible. Revelation never volunteers anything that man could discover for himself -- on the principle, probably, that it is only when he is capable of discovering it that he is capable of appreciating it. Besides, children do not need Laws, except Laws in the sense of commandments. They repose with simplicity on authority, and ask no questions. But there comes a time, as the world reaches its manhood, when they will ask questions, and stake, moreover, everything on the answers. That time is now. Hence we must exhibit our doctrines, not lying athwart the lines of the world's thinking, in a place reserved, and therefore shunned, for the Great Exception; but in their kinship to all truth and in their Law-relation to the whole of Nature. This is, indeed, simply following out the system of teaching begun by Christ Himself. And what is the search for spiritual truth in the Laws of Nature but an attempt to utter the parables which have been hid so long in the world around without a preacher, and to tell men once more that the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto this and to that?