Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

rendered; how this incredulity has arisen, whether it is a necessary consequence of the existing state of knowledge, a permanent menace to the progress Present 0f Christ's relic-ion. That rude assaults are being

assaults on _ ° °

this belief, made on this cardinal tenet of the faith can no longer be doubted. M. Comte1 treats the doctrine of even a general Providence as an antique destiny under a new dress, as a metaphysical artifice, a provisional conception, a concession or compromise made to the theological spirit. "The future of the world," writes a living Positivist,2 " will justify the faith that man can be a providence to himself in a more practical and beneficial sense than any of the various providences he created in his earlier existence." "Science," says another, "is the true providence of man. We lay no faith on a personal God, we use our own faculties." Such dicta, at least, suffice to mark the present stand-point of opinion and feeling in certain quarters in regard to this fundamental postulate of all practical religion.

1 "La Providence des Monothe'istes n'est reellcment autre chose que le destin des Polytbiistes."—Phil. Pos., V. 280. Elsewhere he argues that were the conceptions of theology true, prayer would be the proper means of human progress. Ib., IV. 695, 700. On the views of the so-called "Secularists," cf. Dr. Farrar, Bamp. Led., p. 441.

* Dr. Congreve, Prop, of New Religion, ad fin. "Quisquis sibi Deus " is a maxim in the philosophy of Stirner. "Du moment qu'on ne laisse aucune place aux volontes surnaturelles, ni dans le monde inorganique, ni dans le monde organique, ni parmi les phenomdnes cosmiques, ni parmi ceux de l'histoire, on est necessairement des nStres." —LittrS, Paroles de PhUosophie Positive, p. 58.

§ 2. The Epicureanism of the age, not specula- R'se °f tive, not anticipatory, but positive and evidential, opinions is the product, doubtless, of a vast and rapid viction of advance in physical knowledge, which, commenc-ability and ing with the sixteenth century, has culminated in sahtyof our own.1 It has, in a manner, carried all before naTuref it. It has reacted on the older metaphysical modes of thought. It has produced a twofold effect. First, the conviction of the invariability of laws of nature has been indefinitely strengthened by each freshly-observed uniformity, and explanation of related phenomena. Next, the suspicion of the universality of the reign of law is heightened by each new discovery in distinct departments of science, and a method of Comparative Physics, now first rendered possible, is continually furthering this impression. It is thus deemed the central element of intellectual progress. The relation of laws of nature to general laws soon comes into question.2 Now, though law can never be justly held, in any true sense, a medium between God and His works, yet it may, and constantly does, arrest the attention of the creature. This stopping J°ined

r r ° with an

1 "Jadis la raison humaine le voyant sujet au changement alia cher- imperfect cher l'e'ternel, l'immuable par dcla l'horizon et dans les archetypes. explanaMaintenant l'&ernel, l'immuable devenant notion positive, nous ap- ^em paratt sous la forme des lois immanentes qui gouvernent tout."—Littre, Principes de Phil. Pos., p. 67.

! See Mozley, Bamp. Lect., p. 156: "The only intelligible meaning which we can assign to general laws is, that they are the laws of nature, with the addition of a particular theory of the Divine mode of conducting them; the theory, viz. of secondary causes."

short in the process of analyzing nature may eventuate in different directions, in Naturalism, in Materialism, in Pantheism, in virtual Atheism.1 For, if the present control of Divine agency be disallowed, what remains but a practical negation of belief, or total incredulity? Physical S i It is not, of course, intended to imply that

studies not 3 ° '' \

irreligious, physical studies are in themselves atheistic or irreligious. The reverse would be nearer the truth. Religio ascensio mentis in Deum per scalas creatarum rerum should still be the proud motto of Natural Science.2 There is no proper reason why supernaturalism should not do full justice to nature; none why nature should not do justice to supernaturalism.3 Too much, indeed, of whit has

1 On the history of the term Naturalism, and its relation to a system of Rationalism, see H. J. Rose, on State of Protestantism in Gel-many, pp. 19-23. Wegscheider (Inst. Theol., p. 32) holds it to consist in deriving all effects in nature from a necessity, as it were, of nature alone without regard to Divine Providence, rejecting, therefore, all efficacy of God in imparting religious knowledge to men, together with Revelation of all kinds. Dr. Farrar, in his truly learned lectures on the Critical Hist, of Free Thought, pp. 478, 587, notices the twofold employment of the term, and remarks that Positivism only differs from Naturalism in expressing a particular theory concerning the limits and method of science, as well as a disbelief in the supernatural.

s Compare Bacon, Works, III. 357, ed. Spedding. The dangers of exclusive physical study are pointed out by Sir W. Hamilton in his Lectures, I. p. 35 ff.

3 Nature, the world of phenomena, being itself a totality of effects, can determine nothing as to ulterior causes. Yet, as Mr. Hutton has finely observed, "Men are haunted with the phantom of a power they dare not challenge, which is rumoured to have superseded and exposed natural theology, and to be gradually withdrawing every fold of mystery from the universe without disclosing any trace of God."—Essays, I. 45. been termed Agnosticism or Nescience, and by its detractors Antitheism, bas been developed among leading physicists of the day.1 A know-nothing system of philosophy is cheap ware, and easily offered for acceptance. It can hardly, however, JTM1^ be held to amount to a denial of preternatural system of

* _ nescience.

facts, and by inference of truths of Revelation. The sphere of our belief may well be more extensive than the sphere of our knowledge. An honest effort is, doubtless, being made by many minds to couple with the operation of general laws a religious sense of the Divine agency. Passages in older and unsuspected writers are eagerly seized which seem to reconcile remote causation with the Being and Providence of God.* This is not, of course, the whole, or strictly the real question. Doubtless there is nothing essentially contradictory or mutually exclusive in the notions of Natural law and Divine superintendence. So Spinoza *'rovi

*■ A dence not

argued that Providence is best elicited, from the

1 Compare Mr. Button, u. a., p. 27; and Prof. Tyndall, Fragments fatalism. of Thought, pp. 93,105, 442; Huxley, L. 8., p. 20: "If the religion of the present differs from that of the past, it is because tho theology of the present has become more scientific than that of the past, because it has renounced idols of wood and idols ef stone; but begins to see the necessity of breaking in pieces the idols built up of books and traditions and fine-spun ecclesiastical cobwebs, and of cherishing the noblest and most human of man's emotions by worship,' for the most part of the silent sort,' at the altar of the Unknown and Unknowable."

* See Mr. Lecky's remarks, //. Hat., I. 195, on the advancing rapprochement between writers of the evidential school and the supporters of the inviolability of natural laws. Compare Whcwell, li. Tr., p. 312, &c.

fact of an eternal and changeless order of Nature.1 So, if the ideas of individual freedom of action in man, or of casual irregularity in physical events, be gradually thrust out from the cycle of tenable theorems and accepted beliefs, the result, however much to be regretted, might not be inconsistent with the truth of a Divine Creator, and, in a modified sense, of a Divine Providence.2 It might, indeed, seem strange that the world should turn out to be a puppet-show, devoid of real life or originality. But it will be answered that we are concerned only to ascertain the truth of things, and not with the issues involved in them. We are recalled, then, to the prior question, whether it be a fact that the realm of Law id co-extensive, as far as appears, with the universe of matter and of mind. A prior is Law a necessity, or, at least, an invariable accom

question *'

anses as to paniment of the Divine agency, so far as it is nature of known to us? Is it, indeed, a constant course of

physical .

laws, procedure, a necessary stage in an unknown order

whether 1 J °

objective !pra3terea coeii rationes online certo

or subjec

tive only. Et varia annorum cerncbant tempora vcrti:

Nec poterant quibus id fieret cognosccre causis.
Ergo perfugium sibi habcbant, omnia Divia
Tradere et illorum nutu facere omnia flecti.

Lucret., V. 1182.

!" The natural generation and process of all things roeeiveth order of proceeding from the settled stability of Divine understanding. This appointeth unto them their kinds of working; the dis]>osition, whereof in the purity of God's own knowledge and will, is rightly termed by the name of Providence. The same being referred unto the things themselves here disposed by it, was wont by the ancient to be called natural destiny."—Hooker, E. P., I. iii. 4.

« ElőzőTovább »