« PoprzedniaDalej »
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HUMAN NATURE.
The Nature of Man as Spiritual, Immortal, and Responsible, will be the most frequent topic of this department: though sometimes we
shall introduce MISCELLANEOUS Subjects.
THE NATURE OF FAITH AND SCIENCE.
Newtown, January 4th, 1851. [To the Editor of The Bible and the People.] MY DEAR SIR,
I have read the first number of "The Bible and the People" with considerable pleasure. I think that the mode of treatment adopted, is one that is suitable to the exigencies of the age, and if fully carried out, it will not fail to render service to the cause of religious truth. I do not, hower, concur in some of the statements made in the first and fifth articles; and understanding that you war against the doctrine of human infallibility, and that you invite controversy, properly conducted, I venture to make some observations on the articles mentioned.
The first point in the first article, to which I will refer is, that which represents faith as identical with reason.
I once thought, as you do, that faith does not differ from a moral judgment, and that the difference between the nominal believer and the real one consists, not in the nature of the mental operations called faith, but in the things believed :—the latter believing the true, spiritual meaning of the gospel, the former a meaning of his own; but I have seen reason to change this opinion, and to adopt the one propounded, I believe, by Coleridge, which represents faith as the concurrence of the will, with the conclusions of the understanding:
The appeal, on this point, I think is to our own consciousness. The Scriptures no more teach mental science than they do astronomy or geology, though doubtless the characteristics which they ascribe to faith, would indicate the part of our nature where we are to seek for it. Now, in looking at the process of my own mind in reference to the gospel, and in observing the manifestations of similar processes in the minds of others, it seems to me that there is something more than a mere mental perception of that gospel involved in faith.
Let us attempt to analyze the operation. In your prospectus* you represented, correctly I think, the Atonement of Christ as the central truth of the gospel ; consequently, he who believes that truth, believes the essence of the gospel. Now, the Atonement is an event in the providence of God designed and adapted to become the ground on which God would bestow pardon, justification and everlasting life. The representation of this event, along with its design and utility in the Scriptures, constitutes the doctrine of the Atonement.
* The original Prospectus of The BIBLE AND THE PEOPLE.
If faith be identical with reason, all the mind has to do is to apprehend this doctrine.
You say, “ by faith then our Lord meant perception, insight, or understanding of his spiritual meaning.” I suppose you would admit that this spiritual perception must have reference to the gospel, as it is in itself, and as it is in its relations, as a gospel of truth. It is possible to have a correct and clear apprehension of the gospel, as revealed in the Bible, though it were a system of falsehood. We may have a clear conception of the doctrine of the Atonement, without that conception involving the reality and truthfulness of the event out of which it arose. The Atonement is not a necessary truth, bearing its own evidences, but it has sprung from the gracious arrangements of God; and therefore, it must depend for the evidence of its truth upon something extrinsic: if so, there is something more than an insight of its meaning necessary: that is, the mind must judge, must compare it with something out of itself.
Here, then, are two processes, apprehension and judgment—the one gazing upon the doctrine itself, the other comparing it with something without. I suppose you to comprehend, in spiritual perception these two processes, and only these, and that when an individual has these, he has faith-the faith that saves.
Now it seems to me, that an individual may have these two states of mind, and yet reject the gospel. He may be convinced that Christ has made provision for his salvation, and yet disapprove of that provision. He may perceive the fitness of the gospel to his condition, and yet refuse to submit his mind to the full influence of that gospel. Accordingly, I think that faith is the concurrence of the will—the controlling faculty of the mind, with the conclusions of the understanding. It is the will bringing the mind, in humble submission, to the arrangements of God, placing it under the full influence of his truth, so that this truth becomes an internal, settled principle of the mind.
I think that you have succeeded in showing that faith is not opposed to reason, but this is not proving that it is not different from reason. You will of course admit, that one thing may not be opposed to another, and yet may be different from it. Most of the quotations and references in your article appear to me to establish the non-opposition of faith and reason, and the union of the two in the mind's perfect contact with truth, but the identity of the two does not appear to be made out.
According to the representation of faith, which I have given, reason must be exercised—and without its exercise, faith would be impossible. There may
however be the one without the other. I have reason to believe, that there are many wicked men who have clearer conceptions of the doctrines of the gospel, than many poor and illiterate, yet pious Christians. The former do not submit to the truth apprehended, the latter feel the power of what they know. I think, that progress in faith, implies progress in knowledge; but I should hesitate in asserting, that pro
; gress in knowledge, implies progress in faith.
I would direct your attention also to a statement made in page 7. “The inherent truthfulness of Christ's religion being thus recognized, we learn that to teach it is to prove it; for indeed nothing else can prove Christianity but itself; miracles and historical evidences may be useful auxiliaries," et cetera. believe, with you, that Christianity harmonizes with the nature and condition of the human mind, to use your own language, that it “ fills
the vacancies of the human soul,” and that from this harmony may be derived the most important and the most extensively applicable inference of the truth of Christianity; but you will doubtless admit that to represent Christ's religion as inherently true on account of this harmony, is to lose sight of the distinction between necessary and contingent truth. That which is inherently true is so independently of everything else, and necessitates belief; it does not require and will not admit of any evidence from without. Hence, if Christianity were “ inherently true," it would be so independently of every external testimony, and even independently of its adaptation to the nature and condition of the human mind—it would command belief before the comparison between it and man's condition could be made.
By placing Christianity in the class of necessary truths, there is danger of destroying its historical character, of denying its objective existence, and ultimately of referring it entirely to a subjective origin, the consequence of which would be the annihilation of all positive religion in the world. Perhaps nothing more was meant by the phrase "inherent truthfulness," than the evidence arising from the consideration of the gospel's fitness to man, but the language is evidently incorrect, and would render the writer liable to misinterpretation, especially when taken in connection with the depreciation of the evidences of miracles and history.
I have now done with the first article, and ask your indulgence in making an observation or two upon the fifth.
I fully concur with you in the propriety of confining every branch of human knowledge within its own province, and thereby preventing one from going out of its way to predicate falsehood of another. I fully think that to maintain, as I heard a minister lately doing, that there is more true natural philosophy, geology, physiology and metaphysics, in the Bible than anywhere else, is to make the revelation of God to man an object of ridicule to the philosophical sceptic, and its truthfulness to depend upon the progress of human discovery in departments foreign to its nature and scope.
Convinced of this, I think that it is a good plan of your Magazine to mark out the boundaries of the several provinces of human inquiry; but it seems to me that the principle of division which you have adopted is not a logical one. You divide all knowledge into physics, metaphysics, and divinity. I suppose that you include under metaphysics what the
I ancient schools of philosophy marked out as a separate division under the designation of dialectics, and that divinity is only another name for ethics, the science of moral relations—though I think that divinity is not $0 comprehensive as ethics, because it relates more to the relations and duties subsisting between the Creator and his creatures, than to those which exist between creatures themselves; both of which are equally
included under the term ethics. But the illogical principle of division is indicated in the explanatory terms which are substituted for physics, metaphysics, and divinity, viz., science, philosophy, and theology.
It seems to me that there is a cross division here, if the terms science and philosophy have anything like their usual acceptations. These terms, I admit, are not accurately defined in the generality of works, especially the latter; at the same time, am not aware that they have ever been used in the sense which you attach to them. According to your principle of division, there can be no science in metaphysics, and no philosophy in physics. Now it seems to me, that the contrary of this is the case, and that philosophy and science have a sphere as much in the one as in the other.
The term physics, properly designates the whole world of material existences. They thus denote two distinct regions of “subject matter," on which the faculties of the mind
be exercised. Neither science nor philosophy is to be found in the concrete objects existing in either of these regions; but they pertain to the thinking subject. The essence of science, is classification—the arrangement into classes of the individual concrete objects which nature contains. Now this may be done with the objects of the immaterial world, as well as those of the material. That is, there may be science in metaphysics as well as in physics. Hence, what is sometimes called mental philosophy, is at other times called mental science : and what is called natural science, is sometimes called natural philosophy. The terms are not strictly convertible, but both may have their application in the same provinces.
Philosophy is a term of more ambiguous import. It is sometimes made identical with science, or to comprehend a number of sciences; but I think, that strictly speaking, it denotes that which is general, universal, and necessary in every department of human enquiry in physics, metaphysics, and divinity; at all events, this is the sense which it bears in the writings of the greatest minds of the age. Hence, there may be philosophy in physics as well as in metaphysics.
A little confusion may arise from the want of distinguishing between the objective and the subjective. If the first series of terms were intended to denote the objective, and the second the subjective, I think I have shown that they do not correspond, and that science and philosophy may be the subjective both of physics and of metaphysics.
I have only one other remark to make, closely allied to the above, and that is, on the faculties which you assign to science and philosophy, respectively.
“Science,” you say, “is the observation and orderly arrangement of material changes a matter chiefly of the senses and memory: philosophy regards the nature of man, and the wisdom exhibited in the arrangements of nature discovered by science--exclusively a matter of reflection and reasoning."
Now memory has reference only to what has once been in the mind, whether it has been there in an orderly or disorderly form; hence, the only faculties which you assign as having to do directly with science, are the senses. The senses have two provinces—that of sensation, which is subjective: and that of perception, which is objective. Neither of these
nor both appear to me to be adequate to the construction of science. Natural science is not the classification of our sensations, and therefore, sensation cannot supply natural science. Sense-perception has to do immediately with the concrete objects of the material world; but it has to do with them simply as individuals. The relations which these individuals sustain to each other, and the laws which prevail amongst them, can be discovered only by a higher faculty than perception. Relations and laws are not distinct entities, and therefore they cannot come under the cognizance of perception which has to do exclusively with real existing material substances. If two objects, sustaining several relations to each other, were presented before the
perceptive faculty, this faculty would cognize them as distinct objects : but it could not apprehend the relations existing between them. It is frequently the case, that an object which produces effects cognizable by the perceptive faculty, has never itself come under the notice of this faculty, much less its causal relation : so that the existence of the causal object is a matter of inference not of perception. We might notice electricity. The fluid itself
has never been observed by the senses, but its effects have. It is impossible to get the idea of causation by the senses.
We confidently affirm its existence in regions that have never come under the cognizance of the senses. Whether it is to be referred to the logical or intuitional faculty, is a matter of controversy; but it is certain that it cannot be referred to the senses.
According to your explanations, "science has to do with the discovery of the orderly series of changes in material things: these changes in their observed order constituting the laws of nature, or methods and processes in physical objects;" consequently, science is not chiefly a matter of the senses and memory. It requires the employment of the highest faculties of the understanding. Whatever faculties are necessary to carry on the reasoning process, are employed in the construction of science. I do not know any faculty that is employed in the province of metaphysics, that is not equally required in that of physics, though the senses are employed in physics, and not in metaphysics.
I hope that you will not deem me impertinent in venturing to make these remarks. If it can be shown that I am in error, I shall be glad of the correction.
[N.B. The writers of the articles referred to, “Christianity a reasonable Religion,” and “the Provinces of Philosophy, Religion and Science," will reply in our next. Meanwhile we beg our readers to re-peruse
the papers in question, and exercise their own judgment. We invite discussion, especially as conducted in the spirit and with the ability of our correspondent.--EDITOR.]