Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

cantoned out among the numberless chimeras of a polytheistic belief; therefore unity and harmony in creation were neither supposed nor sought; and nature's apparent discrepancies were passed over as real and irreconcilable. The deities of Pagan mythology were also painted as both weak and cruel; the universe of ancient science was accordingly insignificant in its compass, oppressive in its laws. The origin, nature, and destiny of the human spirit were also unknown; consequently the metaphysics, ethics, and politics of the ancient world were aimless and worthless.

Yet in the Old Testament, a series of books, written not by philosophers, but by herdsmen, shepherds, and warriors, of a nation just emerging from barbarism, without any outward means of culture, we find traces of a more authentic history, of more accurate science, of a sounder philosophy, than adorned the brightest era of the Pagan world. There was light on the bill-tops and in the dwellings of Judea, when deep darkness brooded over the groves of Academus and the banks of the Tiber.

Modern history furnishes a striking parallel to the state of science in the ancient heathen world. We refer to the period of the French revolution. The infidel literati of that day shot across the intellectual firmament with the brilliancy of meteors, but with a glare as unsubstantial and evanescent as theirs. They put forth lofty pretensions in every department of knowledge, and for a time a dazzled and bewildered world admired them; but the unanimous verdict of posterity has hurled them from their unrightful eminence, and is fast consigning them to oblivion, as a cunning crew of superficial pretenders. Voltaire, their most venerated sage, was wont to boast in secret of his dexterity in coining facts to support his hasty theories; and, though he played for a while the master magician in every department of the empire of mind, he is now not trusted in any, and is hardly so much as consulted; nay, his very name is deemed ample guarantee for the hollowness and falsity of any theory or opinion. Even his histories are full of fable ; and, while we read them for their beauties of style, for authentic statements of facts we must resort to other records. His brother philosophers, whatever their theatre of research, seemed, like him, incapable of distinguishing between fact and falsehood, insensible to the laws of evidence, blind to the characteristics of truth. They carried natural science back to a chaotic state. Their mental philosophy was a system for

brutes. Their ethics and political philosophy would have commended themselves to a cominunity of wolves or tigers. And even in the department of mathematics, where it might have seemed impossible to be otherwise than accurate, they often used a sophistical, bewildering style of demonstration, assuming at the outset the point to be proved, and then arguing in a circle, so that their text-books, for a while received, are now superseded by better in almost all our seminaries of learning.

Having thus shown that, where the Bible has been unknown or rejected, science has either remained in infancy or returned to infancy, let us now examine more particularly the way, in which this revered volume has shed essential light upon the various departments of science.

We inquire, in the first place, what agency has the Bible had in developing and perfecting natural science? Suppose that we were on the site of an ancient edifice, and saw here and there a broken column, a fragment of an arch or a cornice, with one or two apartments not entirely dilapidated, and it were required of us to construct a plan of the edifice as it originally stood, would it not give us essential aid in this work to know the tastes, habits, and character of the architect, and the design which he had in view in this particular building, and especially to examine some entire structure, though of a different kind, of his planning? Most assuredly it would. Now in the temple of universal nature, the portions, which we are able to discern without the aid of science, are as few and as disjointed as the fragments of our supposed edifice; research, preceded and aided by theory, must ascertain the proportions and complete the structure. To the successful prosecution of this work nothing can so essentially conduce, as a knowledge of the character and purposes of Him, who built the temple, of his design in building it, and of other structures planned by the same mind, erected by the same hand. This knowledge we can get from the Bible, and we can find it nowhere else. There we learn the nature and attributes of Hiin, of whose ideas whatever is, is the copy, whatever takes place, is the expression. There we learn the design and office of the material creation. There too we have a perfect outline of that spiritual temple, of which the outward universe is but the type and emblem. We are thus furnished with materials for philosophizing, with data, with starting points, with general principles, on which - Зр

20

VOL. XXXIII.

VOL. XV. NO. II.

to found our particular theories. We can commence our investigation of the parts of the system with just and adequate ideas of Him, who is the whole.

Thus the Bible teaches us the immenseness, the infinity of the divine attributes; and this idea has been the germ of many of the most sublime discoveries of modern science. Let a sense of the infinite power and majesty of the Almighty once take possession of the mind, the bounds of the universe recede, its dimensions stretch beyond the reach of thought; the heavens are no longer the concave canopy of earth, but the limitless theatre of plastic power; the stars are no longer diamond spangles attendant upon our little planet, but worlds, and suns, and systems ; earth ceases to be the centre, and becomes a mere point in the circumference of creation. The Copernican system, the sublime theories now universally received with regard to the fixed stars, considered each as a luminary to a cluster of worlds like ours, the revolution of these immensely large and distant orbs around a common centre, a sun of suns,

- these are ideas, which could not have entered the soul of a Pagan, of a worshipper of the impotent and finite Jupiter ; they flow from those right and lofty conceptions of omnipotence, which the Bible alone can inspire.

The discovery of those general laws, which constitute the harmony of nature, we may also trace to the Bible. Polytheism naturally led its votaries to suppose separate systems, conflicting mechanism, discrepancy and discord in creation ; for how, could strict unity of plan and operation have been expected among gods of opposing interests and characters ? Had Newton been a polytheist, however vast his reach of intellect, he could never have discovered that universal law of gravitation, which binds atom to atom, world to world, system to system, which assigns to the movement of the least grain of sand, on our seashore, an influence on the remotest star in the milky way. No. He inferred, as had preceding Christian philosophers, from the unity of God the unity of his creation. His theology taught him, as it had his predecessors, that there must be universal, comprehensive laws for the government of the material universe. Some of these laws had been already discovered by Kepler and other faith-enlightened seekers after truth. But it was reserved for Newton, as the most humble, child-like worshipper of Nature's God, to penetrate her inmost recesses, to lay bare her secret springs, to reveal that sublime and perfect harmony of creation, in the belief of which, as a Christian, he would have lived and died, even if, as a philosopher, he had failed to ascertain its laws.

Another principle of revelation, to which modern science owes much of its present perfection, is the infinite benevolence of God. The necessary inference from this doctrine is, that nothing is made in vain, that everything has its use in the economy of animal or human enjoyment, that seeming evil must have a beneficent design and tendency, that pain must be the handmaid of pleasure, that what is in aspect terrific and appalling must be merciful in its aim and result. Pagan science could acquiesce in the belief, that malignant powers were at work, and that unmingled evil existed in the universe. Christian philosophy assumes the benevolent aim and tendency of all things, as the basis of its theories. Thus, in the animal economy, modern naturalists on Christian grounds have assumed that every bone, muscle, nerve, and fibre must have its use; and they have so far made good this assumption, that now, in the harp of thousand strings, it can be determined with entire precision, what note vibrates from each in the diapason of joyous health and buoyant activity. So too, with regard to the more gloomy portions, the awful phenomena, the fierce convulsions of nature, modern philosophy has, solely by inferences from the Christian doctrine of the divine benevolence, spanned with the bow of peace the clouds which were big with terror, and drawn forth voices of gladness from every wrathful conflict of the elements. The lightning, once dreaded as a winding sheet, is now welcomed as a swift-winged minister of health. The eclipse, once feared as an omen of impending desolation and death, is now waited for with longing, as a sublime interlude in the harmony of the spheres. The pathless forest, the sunless cavern, is viewed no longer as the abode of malignant demons, but as the means of shelter, nutriment, and joyous life for numberless animals, which could not elsewhere exist, unharming and unharmed. Even the volcano, earth's most terrific feature, is but a safety valve to subterranean fires, which, for aught we know, may be our prime source of heat, while the sun is but the means of attracting it to the surface. Thus, in every department of nature is terror dethroned, and benevolence crowned as the presiding genius. Everything is demonstrated to be good in its place, and beautiful in its season ; and all through the power of that axiom of the apostle, now an axiom in science, no less than in theology, “GOD is Love."

In the intellectual sciences also, the Bible has given the germ and the impulse to every new discovery. Mental pbilosophy assumes, as its foundation truths, the Scripture doctrines of man's spirituality, immortality, and accountability. Ethical writers go to the gospel for their rules and standards. The elements of all sound political science are wrapped up in that grand and simple truth, hidden from the old world, but revealed to us in the Bible, that all men are children of the same Father, subjects of the same providence, invited heirs of the same destiny

There are yet two departments of science, to which we wish to invite more particular attention, before leaving this branch of our subject. One of these is ancient history, which, (as we have already remarked,) in the hands of the ancients themselves, wbile all its documents and monuments were still extant, was a tissue of fable and absurdity. Its monuments have all crumbled; the greater part of its documents are lost; but yet modern research, guided by revelation, has raised it phenix-like from its ashes, and infused into it a freshness and l'eality of life, to which, even in the days of Herodotus, or of Livy, it was a stranger. The early records of Moses fix the date and circumstances of the creation of man, of the origin of the arts, of the rise of nations, all which were wrapped by the Pagan world in fiction, too gross and grotesque to contain even a discernible germ of truth. The Scripture chronology, by its accuracy, furnishes the means of rectifying the self-contradictory and incoherent chronology of heathen writers. The Scripture history runs like a golden thread through the complex web of events, giving completeness, coherency, and unity to what without it would be a mere gossamer texture. Thus we might safely affirm, that an ancient history, composed in conclave by all the eminent historians of Greece and Rome, would bear about the same comparison, in point of fidelity and authenticity, with a modern compend of ancient history, that would be borne by a fashionable historical romance to a literal transcript of the events on which it is founded.

The other case, to which we wish to make particular reference, is that of a science, which in its infancy bade defiance to revelation, but is now in close covenant with it, we mean geology. The earliest modern geologists proudly proclaimed the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »