Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

which we may rest assured great discoveries are yet to be made) will tend to harmonise with the ultimate results of a more thorough study of the records of the race as contained in the book of Revelation. Let us be permitted to imagine one example of such possible harmony. We think that the philologist may engage to make out, on the strictest principles of induction, from the tenacity with which all communities cling to their language, and the slow observed rate of change by which_they alter; by which Anglo-Saxon, for example, has become English*, Latin Italian, and ancient Greek modern (though these languages have been affected by every conceivable cause of variation and depravation); that it would require hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of years to account for the production, by known natural causes, of the vast multitude of totally distinct languages, and tens of thousands of dialects, which man now utters. On the other hand, the geologist is more and more persuaded of the comparatively recent origin of the human race. What, then, is to harmonise these conflicting statements? Will it not be curious if it should turn out that nothing can possibly harmonise them but the statement of Genesis, that in order to prevent the natural tendency of the race to accumulate on one spot and facilitate their dispersion and destined occupancy of the globe, a preternatural intervention expedited the operation of the causes which would gradually have given birth to distinct languages ? Of the probability of this intervention, some profound philologists have, on scientific grounds alone, expressed their conviction. But in all such matters, what we plead for is only patience ; we wish not to dogmatise; all we ask is, a philosophic abstinence from dogmatism. In relation to many difficulties, what is now a reasonable exercise of faith may one day be rewarded by a knowledge which on those particular points may terminate it. And, in such ways, it is surely conceivable that a great part of the objections against Revelation may, in time, disappear; and, though other objections may be the result of the progress of the older sciences or the origination of new, the solution of previous objections, together with the additions to the evidences of Christianity, external and internal, which the study of history and of the Scriptures may supply, and the still brighter light cast by the progress of Christianity and the fulfilment of its prophecies, may inspire increasing confidence that the new objections are also destined to yield to similar

* It contains, let us recollect, (after all causes of changes, including a conquest, have been at work upon it,) a vast majority of the Saxon words spoken in the time of Alfred- nearly a thousand years ago!

solvents. Meanwhile, such new difficulties, and those more awful and gigantie shadows which we have no reason to believe will ever be chased from the sacred page, --mysteries which probably could not be explained from the necessary limitation of our faculties, and are, at all events, submitted to us as a salutary discipline of our humility, — will continue to form that exercise of faith which is probably nearly equal in every ageand necessary in all ages, if we would be made · little children, qualified to enter the kingdom of God.'

In conclusion, we may remark, that while many are proclaiming that Christianity is effete, and that, in the language of M. Proudhon (who complacently says it amidst the ignominious failure of a thousand social panaceas of his own age and country), it will certainly die out in about three hundred years ;' and while many more proclaim that, as a religion of supernatural origin and supernatural evidence, it is already dying, if not dead; we must beg leave to remind them that, even if Christianity be false, as they allege, they are utterly forgetting the maxims of a cautious induction in saying that it will therefore cease to exert dominion over mankind. What proof is there of this? Whether true or false, it has already survived numberless revolutions of human opinions, and all sorts of changes and assaults. It is not confined, like other religions, to any one race— to any one clime — or any one form of political constitution. While it transmigrates freely from race to race, and clime to clime, its chief home, too, is still in the bosom of enterprise, wealth, science, and civilisation; and it is at this moment most powerful amongst the nations that have most of these. If not true, it has such an appearance of truth as to have satisfied many of the acutest and most powerful intellects of the species ;-a Bacon, a Pascal, a Leibnitz, a Locke, a Newton, a Butler; - such an appearance of truth as to have enlisted in its support an immense array of genius and learning: genius and learning, not only in some sense professional, and often wrongfully represented as therefore interested, but much of both, strictly extra-professional; animated to its defence by nothing but a conviction of the force of the arguments by which its truth is sustained, and that hope full of immortality' which its promises have inspired. Under such circumstances it must appear equally rash and gratuitous to suppose, even if it be a delusion, that an institute, which has thus enlisted the sympa. thies of so many of the greatest minds of all races and of all ages - which is alone stable and progressive amidst instability and fluctuation,—will soon come to an end. Still more absurdly premature is it to raise a pæan over its fall, upon every new

attack upon it, when it has already survived so many. This, in fact, is a tone which, though every age renews it, should long since have been rebuked by the constant falsification of similar prophecies, from the time of Julian to the time of Bolingbroke, and from the time of Bolingbroke to the time of Strauss. As Addison, we think, humorously tells the Atheist, that he is hasty in his logic when he infers that if there be no God, immortality must be a delusion, since, if chance has actually found him a place in this bad world, it may, perchance, hereafter find him another place in a worse, — so we say, that if Christianity be a delusion, since it is a delusion which has been proof against so much of bitter opposition, and has imposed upon such hosts of mighty intellects, there is nothing to show that it will not do so still, in spite of the efforts either of a Proudhon or a Strauss. Such a tone was, perhaps, never so triumphant as during the heat of the Deistical controversy in our own country, and to which Butler alludes with so much characteristic but deeply satirical simplicity, in the preface to his great work: — It is come,' says he, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons that Christianity is not so much a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. On • the contrary, thus much at least will here be found, not taken ' for granted, but proved, that any reasonable man, who will thoroughly consider the matter, may be as much assured as he is of his own being, that it is not, however, so clear that there is nothing in it.' The Christian, we conceive, may now say the same to the Froudes, and Foxtons, and to much more formidable adversaries of the present day. Christianity, we doubt not, will still live, when they and their works, and the refutations of their works, are alike forgotten; and a new series of attacks and defences shall have occupied for a while (as so many others have done) the attention of the world. Christianity, like Rome, has had both the Gaul and Hannibal at her gates : But as the 'Eternal City' in the latter case calmly offered for sale, and sold, at an undepreciated price, the very ground on which the Carthaginian had fixed his camp, with equal calmness may Christianity imitate her example of magnanimity. She may feel assured that, as in so many past instances of premature triumph on the part of her enemies, the ground they occupy will one day be its own; that the very discoveries, apparently hostile, of science and philosophy, will be ultimately found elements of her strength. Thus has it been to a great extent with the discoveries in chronology and history; and thus will it be, we are confident, (and to a certain extent has been already), with those in geology. That science has

race.

done much, not only to render the old theories of Atheism untenable, and to familiarise the minds of men to the idea of miracles, by that of successive creations, but to confirm the Scriptural statement of the comparatively recent origin of our

Only the men of science and the men of theology must alike guard against the besetting fallacy of their kind, - that of too hastily taking for granted that they already know the whole of their respective sciences, and of forgetting the declaration of the Apostle, equally true of all man's attainments, whether in one department of science or another, —• We know but in part, • and we prophesy but in part.'

Though Socrates perhaps expressed himself too absolutely when he said that he only knew that he knew nothing,' yet a tinge of the same spirit,-a deep conviction of the profound ignorance of the human mind, even at its best — has ever been a characteristic of the most comprehensive genius. It has been a topic on which it has been fond of mournfully dilating. It is thus with Socrates, with Plato, with Bacon (even amidst all his magnificent aspirations and bold predictions), with Newton, with Pascal, and especially with Butler, in whom, if in any, the sentiment is carried to excess. We need not say that it is seldom found in the writings of those modern speculators who rush, in the hardihood of their adventurous logic, on a solution of the problems of the Absolute and the Infinite, and resolve in delightfully brief demonstrations the mightiest problems of the universe -- those great enigmas, from which true philosophy shrinks, not because it has never ventured to think of them, but because it has thought of them enough to know that it is in vain to attempt their solution. To know the limits of human philosophy is the better part of all philosophy; and though the conviction of our ignorance is humiliating, it is, like every true conviction, salutary. Amidst this night of the soul, bright stars — far distant fountains of illumination are wont to steal out, which shine not while the imagined Sun of reason is above the horizon! and it is in that night, as in the darkness of outward nature, that we gain our only true ideas of the illimitable dimensions of the universe, and of our true position in it.

Meanwhile we conclude that God has created two great • lights,'— the greater light to rule man's busy day- and that is Reason; and the lesser to rule his contemplative night-and that is Faith.

But Faith itself shines only so long as she reflects some faint illumination from the brighter orb.

ART. II. - 1. Die Chemische Forschungen auf dem Gebiete der

Agricultur und Pflanzenphysiologie. Von Emil THEODOB

WOLFF. 8vo. pp. 549. Leipzig : 1847. 2. Précis Elémentaire de Chimie Agricole. Par le Docteur

F. Sacc, Professeur à la Faculté des Sciences de Neufchatel

(Suisse). 8vo. pp. 420. Paris: 1848. 3. Mémoire sur les Terrains Ardennais et Rhénan de l'Ardenne,

du Rhin, du Brabant et du Condros. Par ANDRÉ DUMONT, Professeur de Géologie à l'Université de Liège-Extrait du tome xx. et du tome XXII. des Mémoires de l'Académie

Royale de Belgique. 4to. pp. 613. 4. Geological and Agricultural Survey of the State of Rhode

Island, made under a Resolve of Legislature in the Year 1839. By CHARLES T. JACKSON, M.D. 8vo. pp. 312. Provi

dence: 1840. 5. The present State of Agriculture in its Relations to Chemistry

and Geology. A Lecture delivered before the Royal Agricultural Society, at the Meeting in York. By Professor Johnston. From the Journal of the Royal Agricultural

Society of England, vol. ix. part 1. London: 1848. 6. Contributions to Scientific Agriculture. By JAMES F. W.

JOHNSTON, M.A., F.R.S.L. L. & E., F.G.S., &c. 8vo.

pp. 231. London and Edinburgh: 1849. 7. On the Use of Lime in Agriculture. By James F. W.

JOHNSTON, F. R. SS. L. & E. &c. &c. Fcap. 8vo. pp. 282.

London and Edinburgh: 1849. SUPPOSE an intellectual foreigner, previously unacquainted

with Great Britain, with the character of its people or with its social condition, to be informed that they occupied a small and remote corner of Europe, shrouded for many months of the year in fogs and mists, and seldom and briefly visited by the fervid sun, and that they raised from it with cost and difficulty the means of subsistence for their rapidly increasing numbers :but that nevertheless, their legislature, though one in which the landowners were predominant, had recently thrown open their harbours to all comers, and trusting to their superior energy, perseverance, and skill, had invited the most fertile and favoured regions of the globe to a free competition in their own grain markets,- how would such a man admire the open boldness - how respect the determination of such a people, and long to VOL. XC. NO. CLXXXII.

в в

« AnteriorContinuar »