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Christianity or to none of it. As if to baffle the efforts of man consistently to disengage these elements of our belief, the whole are inextricably blended together. The supernatural element, especially, is so diffused through all the records, that it is more and more felt, at every step, to be impossible to obliterate it without obliterating the entire system in which it circulates.
The stain, if stain it be, is far too deep for any scouring fluids of Rationalism to wash it out, without destroying the whole texture of our creed ; and, in our judgment, the only consistent Rationalism is the Rationalism which rejects it all.
At whatever point the Rationalist we have attempted to describe may take his stand, we do not think it difficult to prove that his conduct is eminently irrational. If, for example, he be one of those moderate Rationalists who admit (as thousands do) the miraculous and other evidence of the supernatural origin of the Gospel, and therefore also admit such and such doctrines to be true, - what can he reply, if further asked what reason he can have for accepting these truths and rejecting others which are supported by the very same evidence ? How can he be sure that the truths he receives are established by evidence which, to all appearance, equally authenticates the falsehoods he rejects ? Surely, as already said, this is to reject and accept evidence as he pleases. If, on the other hand, he says that he receives the miracles only to authenticate what he knows very well without them, and believes true on the information of reason alone, why trouble miracles and revelation at all? Is not this, according to the old proverb, to take a hatchet to break an egg'?
Nor can we disguise from ourselves, indeed, that consistency in the application of the essential principle of Rationalism would compel us to go a few steps further; for since, as Bishop Butler has shown, no greater difficulties (if so great) attach to the page of Revelation than to the volume of Nature itself, - especially those which are involved in that dread enigma, the origin of
evil,' compared with which all other enigmas are trifles, — that abyss into which so many of the difficulties of all theology, natu
* If such a man says that he rejects certain doctrines, not on rationalistic grounds, but because he denies the canonical authority, or the interpretation of portions of the records in which they are found, and is willing to abide by the issue of the evidence on those points-evidence with which the human mind is quite competent to. deal, — we answer, that he is not the man with whom we are now arguing. The points in dispute will be determined by the honest use of history, criticism, and philology. But between such a man and one who rejects Christianity altogether, we can imagine no consistent position.
ral and revealed, at last disembogue themselves, - we feel that the admission of the principle of Rationalism would ultimately drive us, not only to reject Christianity, but to reject Theism in all its forms, whether Monotheism, or Pantheism, and even positive or dogmatic Atheism itself. Nor could we stop, indeed, till we had arrived at that absolute pyrrhonism which consists, if such a thing be possible, in the negation of all belief,
even to the belief that we do not believe!
But though the objections to the reception of Christianity are numerous, and some insoluble, the question always returns, whether they over-balance the mass of the evidence in its favour? nor is it to be forgotten that they are susceptible of indefinite alleviation as time rolls on; and with a few observations on this point we will close the present article.
A refinement of modern philosophy often leads our rationalist to speak depreciatingly, if not contemptuously, of what he calls a stereotyped revelation - revelation in a book. It ties down, he is fond of saying, the spirit to the letter; and limits the ‘progress' and development of the human mind in its 'free' pursuit of truth. The answer we should be disposed to make is, first, that if a book does contain truth, the sooner that truth is stereotyped the better; secondly, that if such book, like the book of Nature, or, as we deem, the book of Revelation, really contains truth, its study, so far from being incompatible with the spirit of free inquiry, will invite and repay continual efforts more completely to understand it. Though the great and fundamental truths contained in either volume will be obvious in proportion to their importance and necessity, there is no limit to be placed on the degree of accuracy with which the truths they severally contain may be deciphered, stated, adjusted —or even on the period in which fragments of new truth shall cease to be elicited. It is true indeed that theology cannot be said to admit of unlimited progress, in the same sense as chemistry – which may, for aught we know, treble of quadruple its present accumulations, vast as they are, both in bulk and importance. But even in theology as deduced from the Scripture, minute fragments of new truth, or more exact adjustments of old truth, may be perpetually expected. Lastly, we shall reply, that the objection to a revelation's being consigned to a book is singularly inapposite, considering that by the constitution of the world and of human nature, man, without books, - without the power of recording, transmitting, and perpetuating thought, of rendering it permanent and diffusive,-ever is, ever has been, and ever must be little better than a savage; and therefore, if there was to be a revelation at all, it might fairly be expected that it would be communicated in this form; thus affording us one more analogy, in addition to the many which Butler has stated, and which may in time be multiplied without end, between · Revealed Religion and the Constitution and Course of Nature.'
And this leads us to notice a saying of that comprehensive genius, which we do not recollect having seen quoted in connexion with recent controversies, but which is well worthy of being borne in mind, as teaching us to beware of hastily assuming that objections to Revelation, whether suggested by the progress of science, or from the supposed incongruity of its own contents, are unanswerable. We are not, he says, rashly to suppose that we have arrived at the true meaning of the whole of that book. • It is not at all incredible that a book which has been so long
in the possession of mankind, should contain many truths as ‘yet undiscerned. For all the same phenomena and the same • faculties of investigation, from which such great discoveries in * natural knowledge have been made in the present and last age, were equally in the possession of mankind several thousand years before. These words are worthy of Butler; and as many illustrations of their truth have been supplied since his day, so many others may fairly be anticipated in the course of time. Several distinct species of argument for the truth of Christianity from the very structure and contents of the books containing it have been invented — of which Paley's Horæ Paulinæ' is a memorable example. The diligent collation of the text, too, has removed many difficulties; the diligent study of the original languages, of ancient history, manners and customs, has cleared up many more; and by supplying proofs of accuracy where error or falsehood had been charged, has supplied important additions to the evidence which substantiates the truth of Revelation. Against the alleged absurdity of the Laws of Moses, again, such works as that of Micholis have disclosed much of that relative wisdom which aims ·not at the abstractedly best, but the best. which a given condition of humanity, a given period of the world's history, and a given purpose could dictate. In pondering such difficulties as still remain in those laws, we may remember the answer of Solon to the question, whether he had given the Athenians the best laws; viz. that he had given them the best of which they were capable: or the judgment of the illustrious Montesquieu, who remarks, · When Divine Wisdom said to the Jews "I have given you precepts which are not good,”. “this signifies that they had only a relative goodness; and this is
the sponge which wipes out all the difficulties which are to be • found in the Laws of Moses.' This is a truth which we are per
suaded a profound philosophy will understand the better the more deeply it is revolved; and only those legislative pedants will refuse weight to it, who would venturously propose to give New Zealanders and Hottentots, in the starkness of their savage ignorance, the complex forms of the British constitution. In a similar manner, many of the old objections of our deistical writers have ceased to be heard of in our day, unless it be from the lips of the veriest sciolism; the objections, for instance, of that truly pedantic philosophy which once argued that ethical and religious truth are not given in the Scripture in a system such as a schoolman might have digested it into; as if the brief iteration and varied illustration of pregnant truth, intermingled with narrative, parable, and example, were not infinitely better adapted to the condition of the human intellect in general! For similar reasons, the old objection, that statements of Christian morality are given without the requisite limitations, and cannot be literally acted upon, has been long since abandoned as an absurdity. It is granted that a hundred folios could not contain the hundredth part of all the limitations of human actions, and all the possible cases of a contentious casuistry; and it is also grantedthat human nature is not so inept as to be incapable of interpreting and limiting for itself such rules as Whatsoever ye would that men should do to
ye even so to them.' In the same manner have many of the objections suggested at different periods by the progress of science been dissolved; and, amongst the rest, those alleged from the remote historic antiquity of certain nations on which infidels, like Volney and Voltaire, once so confidently relied. And it is worthy of remark, that some of the old objections of philosophers have disappeared by the aid of that very science - geology – which has led, as every new branch of science probably will, to new ones. Geology has, however, in our judgment, done at least as much already to remove difficulties as to occasion them; and it is not illogical, or perhaps unfair, to surmise that, if we will only have patience, its own difficulties, as those of so many other branches of science, will be eventually solved. One thing is clear, — that, if the Bible be true and geology be true, that cannot be geologically true which is scripturally false, or vice versâ; and we may therefore laugh at the polite compromise which is sometimes affected by learned professors of theology and geology respectively. All we demand of either — all that is needed - is, that they refrain from a too hasty conclusion of absolute contradictions between their respective sciences, and retain a quiet remembrance of the imperfection of our present knowledge both of geology and, as Butler says, of the Bible. The
recent interpretation of the commencement of Genesis — by which the first verse is simply supposed to affirm the original creation of all things, while the second immediately refers to the commencement of the human economy; passing by those prodigious cycles which geology demands, with a silence worthy of a true revelation, which does not pretend to gratify our curiosity as to the previous condition of our globe any more than our curiosity as to the history of other worlds — was first suggested by geology, though suspected and indeed anticipated by some of the early Fathers. But it is now felt by multitudes to be the more reasonable interpretation,- the second verse certainly more naturally suggesting previous revolutions in the history of the earth than its then instant creation : and though we frankly concede that we have not yet seen any account of the whole first chapter of Genesis which quadrates with the doctrines of geology, it does not become us hastily to conclude that there can be none. If a further adjustment of those doctrines, and a more diligent investigation of the Scripture, together, should hereafter suggest any possible harmony,—though not the true one, but one ever ‘so gratuitously assumed, — it will be sufficient to neutralise the objection. This, it will be observed, is in accordance with what has been already shown,- that wherever an objection is founded on an apparent contradiction between two statements, it is sufficient to show any possible way in which the statements may
be reconciled, whether the true one or not. The objection, in that case, to the supposition that the facts are gratuitously assumed, though often urged, is, in reality, nothing to the purpose.* If it should ever be shown, for example, that supposing as many geological eras as the philosopher requires to have passed in the chasm between the first verse, which asserts the original dependence of all things on the fiat of the Creator, and the second, which is supposed to commence the human era, any imaginable condition of our system - at the close, so to speak, of a given geological period — would harmonise with a fair interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, the objection will be neutralised.
We have little doubt in our own minds that the ultimately converging though, it may be, transiently discrepant conclusions of the sciences of philology, ethnology, and geology (in all of
* Some admirable remarks in relation to the answers we are bound to give to objections to revealed religion have been made by Leibnitz (in reply to Bayle) in the little tract prefixed to his Theodicée, entitled De la Conformité de la Foi avec la Raison. He there shows that the utmost that can fairly be asked is, to prove that the affirmed truths involve no necessary contradiction.