« PoprzedniaDalej »
and intellectual classes in this country, and sense; but it is of little or no authority in any in Germany. In times that are gone by, particular instance to which it might be apmen of the very same class, and who did plied. not come over to Christianity, allowed them. Historical criticism, in many cases, and selves either to assail it as an imposture, or philological criticism also, in many, and of they covertly scorned it; and in society, as ten the two conjoined, afford grounds enough often as occasion served, or whenever none of exception, which come in between any of the “cloth” were of the party, they put given passage of Scripture, and any one inforth their rank ribaldries, and their stale terpretation of it which should command morsels of atheism. No doubt there are our assent, as if it might rule, or overrule, those still who do the same thing; but they our religious opinions. These special exare the malign, the paradoxical, the ambi. ceptions, founded on the criticism of the tious, the overweening. One knows them canonical text, considered as a merely huin a moment by their flippancy and cant: man composition, are not of the substance there is no depth in them, no honest inten- of “ modern thought :” they are its defensive tion, no seriousness; they are scoffers; they weapons only. Modern thought, in its subhave been such from their boyhood up- stance, is a congeries of all those refined wards:- they blaspheme Heaven; they theistic speculations, of all those baffled mock whatever they have no comprehension aspirations, of all those deep and distractof; they vilify human nature in the con- ing surmises—those exhalations of the abyss, crete, and deify it in the abstract: they have and those miasmas of earth, to which a foul mouth whenever they can eject poison Christianity itself has given intensity, and with an aim; and the mouth of adulation toward which it has rendered intellectual when praise is destined to come round to and sensitive natures cruelly alive. Or, if themselves.
now we were to express nearly the same Men of this class are becoming every day meaning in the old theological style, and fewer; and they are descending lower in after the fashion of our puritanical grandthe social scale. But if persons such as sires, we should say, that modern thought is these are set off, then there are everywhere the striving and the wrestling of the nato be met with, even in the best society-in tural man against the things of God when and around colleges -- and throughout the the conscience has become enlightened." professions (must we not admit it? and in Though it be so, yet we must exclude truth in the clerical profession) men who Christianity altogether from the regions and are highly cultured, who are correct in their neighbourhood of a highly developed intelhabits, and nice in their tastes, and who lectuality, and of refined moral feeling and might be pointed at as samples of intelli taste; we must confine the gospel strictly gence and good feeling: they are the “elect" to the masses whose culture, from childhood, of the world of mind. At length Christ- has been biblical only, if we would free ourianity has made these men its own, at least, selves entirely of this spectre, this modern so far as this—that they regard it, and speak thought, which, in a word, is Christianized of it, with respect : they have ceased to thinking and feeling -- short of Christian think it possible, or even desirable, if it thought and feeling. were possible, to call in question its historic But we return to Chalmers' Lectures, reality. The difficult problem of its super- which suggest a comparison full of signifinatural attestations, they relegate. Among cance at the present time. these persons there are differences on this Let an intelligent reader, who has himself question; some avowing their belief in the passed through exercises of mind-through resurrection of Christ, and many of them conflicts, the deepest and the most tryingwavering, from day to day, in their own let such a reader take up any of those reconvictions regarding it. There are those, cent books, we need not name them, in which still coming under the general description, Modern Thought has uttered itself-some who step forward much beyond this nega- covertly, and some boldly. We appeal to tive position, and who even profess a faith him, Will he be able to gather, out of these that is ample enough to warrant their sub- volumes, an intelligible and coherent rescription to the Thirty-nine articles. Never ligious system, as put together by these theless, as often as the undisputed gram- various labourers on the same field? We matical sense of any doctrinal passage of think he will not be able, with his best enScripture is pressed upon them, as if it were deavours, to achieve any such task, nor even authoritative, they draw back; and ask to to make an approach toward it. But our take a position on much lower ground. second question, unless it can be favourably Holy Scripture, with these ambiguous per- answered, carries still more meaning. Let sons, is of authority in a broad or universal | the reader--one who is candid and instructed
- let him take in hand the writings of any the affections, and which, in a sovereign manone of the noted expounders of Modern ner, assumes to govern the life and temper, Thought, and try his skill in the endeavour These four volumes a Christian man will to make out exactly what it is which this open in those seasons when he needs all the one author means, or what it is which he aids which the Gospel can afford him; but wishes us to accept from him as a scheme as for the books which embody Modern of religious belief-a belief which we may Thought, even the best of them, he will, at profess, and may defend against assailants; such a time, turn away from them with the or a belief to which a man might have re- reproachful utterance, “Miserable comforters course, as his stay and consolation, in the are ye all !” day of sadness and trial. We do not think And why is it so? Clearly from the that this could be done in any single in- very nature of the case. If we withdraw stance; for the one characteristic, which is ourselves from that circle within which the the most characteristic of the writers whom apostolic writings are granted to exercise a we have now in view is-mistiness, incoher- determinative authority, we must either be ence, and self-contradiction. Each of them content to remain to the end of life destitute is found to be building up a belief on one of any settled religious opinions; and what page, which he is seen to be pulling down discomfort, nay, misery, is this ! or we must on the next. It must be so; for principles frame a system for ourselves. But if we do eternally contradictory, the one of the other, this, it can never be more than a negation, are at war within him. It must be so, by as related to the belief which would have the rule of an inexorable necessity, for those resulted from a submissive exposition of the elements of confusion, which have jarred the text of Scripture. And not only must our universe, are, in these writers, racking the religion have this negative character, but, reason and the moral sense. In accordance between it and the next negation lower with our statement of the case, vacillation down on the scale, there is no fixed boundand inconsequence should be the conditions ary, nor can there be any. What should of this Modern Thought; and we ask any prevent our receding and taking a still reader who is familiar with this class of lit-lower standing? And then, when we have erature, if it be not so in fact.
reached it, why may we not repeat this deBut, now, let this same reader, whether scending movement, again and yet again? or not he may relish all points of Chalmers' There can be no other reason for making a theology- let him institute a comparison on stand at any stage, than that which springs this ground : whether or not he may think from an instinctive dread of sliding away his criticisms, in single instances, the most toward the brink of a precipice. exact and the best possible, yet he will find, THE ASTRONOMICAL DISCOURSES, which at in these expository Lectures, a conspicuous the moment of their delivery, did so much unity of principle-a firm coherence of the in securing for Chalmers the lofty position parts as related to that principle: he will which he thenceforward occupied as a pulpit find the very opposite of that waywardness orator, will probably maintain their place and variableness, and that petulant contra- in our religious literature, and they may riety which are the characteristics of Modern even take the lead among those of his writ. Thought. Throughout these Lectures there ings that will be permanently popular. The is a deep and serious intention ;-there is a line of argument pursued in these discourses devout cogency-an honest explicitness, lead- is substantially philosophical and warranting, and urging, and inviting us onward still able, and it may always be appealed to as upon the same path, toward the saine con- presenting a sufficient reply to those vague clusion, To this teacher we are never assumptions that have been urged as if they tempted to apply the apostolic dictum," a involved a hypothetic contradiction of Christdouble-minded man is unstable in all his anity. Moreover, at the precise time when ways.” Throughout these Expositions all these Discourses were delivered, they were lines of thought are tending toward one cen- in a peculiar degree seasonable; and although tre, namely—the indisputable authority of considerations of the same order as those so Holy Seripture in matters of religious be- eloquently urged by Chalmers had been adlief. Here then, a religious man-- letting vanced and urged by preachers and writers alone what does not seem to be of the sub- (among these by Andrew Fuller with very stance of the author's meaning-will find good effect) yet, when brought forward by that which every religious man will be look- him with so much force and freshness, they ing for and must desire, and must meet with produced all the effect of novelty; and the before he finds rest and peace :--he is here relgious argument—the Christian argument, presented with the constituents of a faith was felt to have won a signal triumph in his which satisfies the conscience, which elevates hands. The logical value of the Discourses
was immeasurably enhanced, too, b they argument of Chalmers, or in some degree circumstance that the preacher was known to abate the value of it, at least as couducted to be himself quite at home among the facts by him; but we think it is not so in fact. and the principles of the modern astronomy, The distinguished men who have recently and of modern science generally. He was come forward on this ground, must not be not (and some such Christian champions we thought to have dislodged Chalmers, much have seen) a frightened and angry theologue, less to have damaged his reputation as a denouncing as sheer atheism the surest de philosophic theologian : what they have done ductions of physical philosophy. Chalmers is to bring the argument into its bearings could not be treated superciliously by those with the latest ascertained facts in science ; whose unbelief he assailed; for he knew and more than this, they have assigned to it quite as much as themselves of the “Modern its genuine significance, as related, not to the Astronomy:" this was his vantage ground, flippancy of objectors, such as those with and he took his stand upon it in a manner whom Chalmers believed himself to be conequally free from over-weening boastfulness tending, but much rather to a deeper tone and from timidity. An antagonist could of thought than he had in view and to the bring forward nothing of importance on the perplexities of men who are serious, sinside of science, which the preacher had not cere, and open to conviction, if it might but already taken possession of, either explicitly be fairly attained. It is a circumstance or implicitly, as the basis of his own argu- much to be noted, that this argument, just ment. If this argument failed to carry con- at the point where it was left by Chalmers, viction, or wholly to remove discomfort, it has been taken up by men who not only are was not because it had been handled incom- of the highest standing in science, but who, petently, or had been carried forward under although assailing each other somewhat shelter of any concealments.
vehemently, are decisively Christian in their This Christian advocate, with open eye professed belief. Chalmers, as we have and with well-instructed vision, stands upon said, takes a tone towards opponents which this petty planet, reverently conscious of the has too much of the eager champion, aiming immeasurable vastness of the material uni- to crush his antagonist, whom he treats with verse around him-a vastness which to us scorn. This tone and manner, which is is infinite; and yet he is not astounded; he always of questionable policy, should now is not disheartened while he still grasps in be condemned and avoided, not merely as his hand the book of the Christian revelation. impolitic, but as inappropriate too. Serious Nay, he feels that this very gift of reason argumentation, and a showing of reasons, which has enabled him, from off this planet, are always thrown away upon men of a small as it is, to measure celestial space, and reckless and flippant temper, whose infidelity to bring the remotest worlds within the is mainly an affectation, or a means of range of his calculus, and to put these worlds satiating a vicious ambition. It is to minds in his scales--this Reason, this Intelligence, altogether of another class that arguments itself affords a ground whereupon we may on the side of Christianity should be adapted, argue concerning human nature, while we if we expect to do any good. Readers of assume for it, and for its destinies, all the this class——thoughtful, disquieted, and honest importance which the Christian doctrine —who take up the Astronomical Discourses, supposes. Ought we to think, whatever may will do well to remember that the line of be his stature, that man is insignificant, who, argument pursued in them would remain labouring as he does, under the abatements, quite as substantial as it is, although all the obstructions, the infirmities, attaching those passages and expressions were reto his animal structure, has, nevertheless, moved from them which attribute a shallow spite of them, mastered the mechanism of impertinent arrogance to the preacher's opthe heavens, and has only now at length ponents. Let the reader of these Discourses come to imagine himself unimportant in the suppose that the term so often meeting his universe -- how and why? because by his eye—“the infidel "-has been erased from own science and by his own instruments, he his copy. has convinced himself that these our visible Chalmers, in his day, would hardly have heavens are only a nebula amidst nebulæ, allowed himself to imagine that the commore vast than it, and numberless! mon belief or hypothesis concerning the
Those who now for the first time take up worlds around us would ever again come to the Astronomical Discourses, should carry be seriously called in question, much less themselves back to the day of their appear- that a leading mind in the scientific commu. ance. Even the agitation of the same gene- nity should adventure a book in disproof of ral subject within the last three years may the persuasion that there are more worlds seem, to younger readers, to distance the than one,” and other families endowed, like
the human family, with reason and a moral It is quite lately that the progress of sense. Nevertheless, improbable as it science, in the departments of physiology might have seemed, such an argument has and natural history, has opened up views of actually startled the reading public-has the system of animal life which would go to darkened the intellectual heavens; and the strengthen the belief assumed in the "Astroningenious statements so ably advanced by mical Discourses” as unquestionable. The the Master of Trinity, have taken at least ground on which Chalmers takes his stand, so much hold of the thinking community as is—may we venture to say so-becoming this, namely—to show that many of those every day consolidated, as if from beneath. assumptions, or à priori conclusions, or those The creation—the world of conscious inferences froin analogy, which had been al- life-life such as it is now developed on this lowed—unexamined—to sustain a belief in planet—is not a blind process of physical the plurality of worlds-regarded as the development; but it is a scheme, within dwelling-places of intelligent races, were in which a plan-an idea-the intention of great measure conjectural, and might be a Mind, has been moving forward through shown to be of small logical value; inasmuch its preconcerted stages. Man—the lastas they would support a belief which in re- fashioned of all orders and species--so we lation to this planet (and the moon) the must believe-Man was from the first conmodern geology explicitly contradicts. templated; for we find that his animal struc
Beyond this reasonable abatement of our ture, in its peculiarities, has been kept in view confidence in certain astronomical conjec- from the very dawn of animal life. Let it tures, Dr. Whewell's Essay has not, we be true that, through cycles of incalculable think-how should it do so ?-dislodged ages, this earth was lorded over by no rafrom our minds that almost irresistible tional species ;—and yet it is also true that belief to which the modern astronomy has Man, such as he is, was, from of old, noted given not merely expansion, but distinct- in the book. Yes, it may be affirmed that ness — namely, that the material uni- “ from the beginning,” in the book of the verse—the solid masses around us--the creative purposes, “ all his members were luminous and the illuminated-has a worthy written, which in continuance were fashionpurpose-a high final cause ;-that it is ed, when as yet there was none of them;" everywhere the platform of life--of con- even then they were wrought (in type or scious life, and if so, of life intellectual and symbol)“ in the lowest parts of the earth" moral. Let us be told, when at night we that is to say, among the lowest orders are looking upward and around us, that we of animal life. know nothing of this universe beyond the These recently admitted principles, so far girt of this our own planet; and that all as they may be regarded as authentic deconjectures which take a bolder flight ductions from facts, have then this signifiare mere creations of a distempered brain cance as related to our immediate subject--destitute of even a shadow of logical evi- they give indication of a purpose which, indence ! We must persist in refusing to calculable as may be the reach of its chronologrant this; for if, by help of a factitiously se- gy, does not, will not halt, until intellectual vere mode of reasoning, we bring ourselves and moral lífe has come to combine itself! to disallow our involuntary belief in the everywhere with the conditions of animal "Plurality of Worlds”--worlds inhabited by life. But if a purpose such as this—if an rational beings, then, and in the very act of eternal intention, forewritten upon the tadoing so, we have also, in some measure, blets of animal life, implies, when we carry contravened those instinctive convictions by it up to its source in the attributes of the aid of which it is that we advance upward Eternal Being--if it implies a law of the from the spectacle of order, fitness, benefi- Creative Mind, the same law will not fail cence, beauty, around us, and go on until to take effect, sooner or later, throughout we confirm our belief in the creative power, the broad platform of the Universe ; and if wisdom, and goodness of God. We are far so, then Man is not alone on that platform, from affirming that this, our theistic belief, and there are more worlds than one." is logically dependent upon the other belief But if the worlds around us are peopled; -in the plurality of worlds ;-nevertheless or, if some of them are peopled, then how we say that, in attempting to dislodge this does this belief, or this reasonable supposilast persuasion from its accustomed place tion, how does it affect our religious belief? in our convictions, the very framework of or, to put the question more pointedly, our intuitive principles must so have been what is its aspect toward our Christian be disjointed or shaken, as must render our hold lief? In the second of these Astronomical of the theistic belief thenceforward so much Discourses Chalmers lays down the law the more difficult and precarious,
which, if we profess ourselves to be obe
dient disciples of the Modern Philosophy, courses, expends the treasures of his cumuought to govern our reasonings on this lative eloquence, while it may well give ground:-we profess to admire Bacon, and contentment to the easily contented, must Newton, and La Place; let us then deal leave, as well the melancholic, as phlegmawith the question above stated in a mode tic sceptic dissatisfied; at best only where becoming the disciples of this school. This he was before. Reasoning which is to law of the Modern Philosophy, which de- loosen the hold of any other species of reamands submission to evidence wherever it soning upon the mind, or still more upon can be had, and which requires also a cor- the imagination, must be of a homogeneous responding abstinence from unsupported quality. A vague, and yet a very powerful conjectures--a law so signally illustrated in impressiona conjectural argument-very the whole of Newton's course, takes effect strong in appearance, is not to be dislodged, upon the subject now in view, in this way; and will not be made to relax its grasp. -it forbids our invading or intruding upon merely by bringing to bear upon it a train of any precincts within which our conclusions reasoning which is wholly of another order, rest upon substantial evidence, by conjec- and which demands the exercise of another tures, however plausible such conjectures class of the intellectual faculties. Such for may be, but which are mainly gratuitous. example, is the historic argument in support Yet such an intrusion does take place where of the Christian system. Reasoning which a hypothetic difficulty, drawn from the vast is inferential and circuitous, although it be ness of the universe, and from the compara absolutely conclusive on its own ground, tive insignificance of this planet, is brought takes its effect upon one mood of mind; forward as if it might avail to upset those but the conjectural difficulty, or the antidefinite conlusions which sustain our be- christian hypothesis, has already got its lief as Christians. This belief claims to hold upon another mood of mind; and have a peremptory hold upon our assent : even if a highly-disciplined intellect be ca-as an argument it is irrefragable; where- pable of alternating between the two, very as the difficulty insisted upon by “Infidels," few are so nicely equipoised as to be able can appeal to no proof whatever; at the to bring the two together upon the same best it is a bare surmise ; it is a mere suspi- parallel of thought. cion: there is, as the ground of it, the gratu- Now, although the hypothesis which itous assertion that Christianity is a scheme stands in the way of our Christian belief is which is taking effect upon this planet only ; confessedly vague, as well as destitute of but the fact may be far otherwise ; for positive evidence, nevertheless it has continaught we know the redemption effected for ued to present itself as a potent objection man may be taking effect also upon in the view of amost every thoughtful mind many other races--even upon the intelli- in modern times. There are, however, facts gent universe. It may be so; thus it which are not vague, and are neither quesis that we oppose conjecture to conjectionable nor ambiguous, in giving attention ture; meantime, what we have to do to which this adverse conjecture fades away with is the Historic Evidence which sus- into a more and more phantom-like dimtains our faith in the Gospel; and the rules ness, until it ceases to show any definite of our Modern Philosophy demand that we contour. It is in the third of these Dis. should yield ourselves to what is positive-courses that the preacher opens a way for to what is demonstrative-while we reject some of these countervailing positive data: whatever wants this kind of support. -such are those abounding illustrations
To this line of argument the men which this earth affords, and especially whom Chalmers combatively designates as when the eye is aided by the microscope, of “our infidels” would find a reply:- they the Divine attributes of intelligence, power, would say,-“We deny that the historic and benignity-contradicting the unphilosoevidence which you appeal to is in so strict phic surmise that the vastness of the matea sense peremptory as that it should exclude rial universe-its infinitude, must imply a all farther question: to make the best of it, negligent regard to what is small or minute, it must not be placed alongside of those and apparently insignificant; no single indicamathematical demonstrations which form tion of any such forgetfulness or indifference the basis of our Modern Philosophy. The presents itself within the realm of nature: conjectural difficulty which, in our view, the microscope teaches us a theology that is possesses an overwhelming weight, may more in harmony with the conclusions of therefore stand good as a counterpoise to Abstract Philosophy. your historic proof."
Further on in this third Discourse, an apIn fact the species of reasoning upon peal is also made to the individual experience which Chalmers, throughout these Dis. 1 of the hearer (or reader) in attestation of the