« ElőzőTovább »
delivery, and now they are published, we shall soon see the gnats settling on the bull's horn, and the snakes biting at the file. So be it. For all such we have but one adage—'prius autem in'tellige, et deinde ad opus accede '—you had better read before you write, and hear before you speak.
There is, however, a far larger class of sincere and intelligent Christians to whom the views here expounded will, at the first announcement, appear so new and startling, so like a revolutionizing of all the long established opinions they have entertained upon these subjects, that though they may not go the length of suspecting Dr. Smith of treachery to the cause of the Bible, or of wilfully undermining their faith in revelation, may yet very reasonably beg leave to pause, and require further time as well as further evidence, before they can settle down into the confirmed opinion that his interpretations are correct. The jealousy they will feel for the credit of revelation, the honor of Moses, and their own cherished views of his writings, will have to undergo a revising process, in which superficial interpretation must be separated from real intention and proper signification. They will moreover require to be convinced, not simply by the lights of geological science, that the interpretation to which they have become familiar was mistaken, but that it was, to say the least, hasty and superficial, unwarranted by analogy of style in other passages relating to physical phenomena; and that a sounder philology, a deeper consideration of the diction and style of the sacred documents would have dictated an interpretation less at variance with the discoveries which recent times have supplied. In order to arrive at entire satisfaction, it will be necessary that they should perceive not simply that the new interpretation may, by some stretch or license, be imposed upon the dubious passages, nor that such proposed interpretation is imperatively demanded to prevent collision between the respective authorities of science and revelation, but that the new view of those passages is at least quite as consistent with the general discoveries of revelation, and quite as much in harmony with the uniform and peculiar style of the sacred writer, and with the unusual circumstances of the people for whom he wrote, as the established interpretation which they are required to discard. As much as this, but no more, we think they are entitled to expect. If in addition it can be shown, that the new interpretation is really more in accordance with the admitted principles of criticism than the old one, this will not only place the new views on a vantage ground, but will undoubtedly with all such intelligent and candid persons at once decide the question. It may then possibly appear, that the amended exposition really supplies a reinforcement of the evidence of revelation, by showing that the true sense of the document had been misapprehended through the false light thrown upon it by a superficial
philosophy, but that, when viewed by clearer light, it is found more in harmony with the real facts of the physical universe than its best friends had ever supposed. It will then in the end come out, that our ignorance or haste had led us to overlook what should have been the true interpretation, which, indeed, could hardly have been imagined in the darkness with which all the facts of the case have long been enveloped, but which when discerned by the aid which science has now lent, proves really a deeper knowledge than had been previously attributed to Moses, and such a harmony with universal truth, as no impostor could possibly have attained. Should the case, then, turn out as we have supposed that so ancient a document, so long misinterpreted through the immaturity of human knowledge brought to its elucidation, does after all contain within it an anticipative, though long latent, adaptation to the advanced state of science in the present age, then this discovery cannot but greatly enhance the evidence of inspiration, preclude suspicion of imposture, and help to place the Christian believer on higher and firmer grounds than he has ever before occupied.
It is not for us to require at once the implicit confidence of any of our readers, or of the Christian public, in the bare averment that so much as this can be shown, or that the greater part of this has actually been accomplished by the learned author of the present work. We feel too much reverence for the cause of sacred truth, too much sympathy with that holy jealousy for the interests of revealed religion which pervades the class whom we now address, to ask them to subscribe without the utmost caution, without the fullest and clearest conviction, either to the hypothetical statement we have now made, or to the views which Dr. Smith has so ably developed. It would be unreasonable to expect them to outstep their convictions, and unmanly in them to do so, if they were required. All that we would venture to ask of them,-all that the cause of truth demands is, that they should calmly and without prejudice read and weigh the evidence—first against the old and popular theory of the world, and next in favor of the new interpretation of Moses proposed by Dr. Smith, bearing in mind that this is recommended, first, by its congruity with the condescending and accommodated style of the entire revelation of God, and is further, so far as we know, the only exposition of the sacred record that can by any possibility be brought to coalesce with the undoubted facts and established principles of geological science.
Before we enter upon our further intention of presenting to our readers some specimens of the principal matters treated in Dr. Smith's Lectures, which will call for their calm and candid, perhaps self-denying and self-correcting exercise of judgment, we must be allowed a little further extension of our prefatory remarks.
We crave this exercise of the reader's patience with the view of bringing him to the inquiry, in a state of mind somewhat prepared for the important function of deciding for himself in so complicated and profound a subject. We propose to remind him of a few general facts and principles which ought not on such a subject to be overlooked, and which if kept in mind may facilitate his judgment, or at least guard him against inconsideration, precipitancy, and a partial view of the manifold bearings of the entire question. The subject is confessedly a great one. It involves the highest interests of truth, religion, and the human race. It deserves, and perhaps will require of most, not only hours of serious prayerful attention, but probably weeks and months of protracted consideration; and from all who would thoroughly understand it, much more reading than will suffice for the single volume now before us.
1. The intelligent Christian reader is respectfully reminded that all the principles and facts that go to constitute the entire body of universal truth are of the same essential nature, are all perfectly harmonized in the mind of the One Infinite Being,-are so in themselves, and can never be otherwise contemplated by us without implying imperfection and mistake somewhere. 'voices of nature, and reason, and revelation are in harmony. • We want only that facts be correctly stated, and that the words of Scripture be interpreted upon the principles of just philology; an
we fear not the result. We will search out the objects of science, the works of the Lord,' by the most careful investigation and vigorous induction, as if we had never heard of his word : and we will apply ourselves to the study of his word, with the strictest observance of the rules of interpretation, just as if we knew nothing of the physical world. We do not, therefore, * speak of bringing about a conciliation between these two lines of ' fact and doctrine; for we anticipate that it already exists.'-Smith, p. 169. Undoubtedly, if we perceive a dissonance among the truths of separate departments, we do them wrong, we dishonor the Author of nature or the Author of revelation. In this state our minds cannot be at rest. Our reason feels itself out. raged; our mental calm is disturbed. Every intelligent believer in revelation admits the principle, that there can really be no discrepancy between the true philosophy of nature and the true theology of the Scriptures. "He may be conscious of such discrepancy in his knowledge, and utterly unable to remove it: he may adhere to the general proposition of the abstract and absolute harmony of truth, both as to its parts among themselves, and as to the perfect knowledge of the divine Mind, but he may be conscious of something that disturbs that harmony in his mind, and he may very naturally and fairly endeavor to escape from the painful dilemma into which he thus falls, by attributing the felt
discrepancy to his own ignorance, or imperfection, or unconscious error: but what we principally wish to enforce is, that this is a painful, anxious state of mind, from which it is his duty and his interest to free himself as speedily and as effectually as he can. A real lover of truth will not remain in error, nor retain in his reason a contradiction, one moment longer than is unavoidablejust because such a state is annoying and painful to his understanding. An escape from it is sought as an emancipation from intellectual bondage-as freedom and happiness to the rational soul. He will, therefore, use the salvo of his own ignorance, or mistake as sparingly as possible, because at best it leaves the mind uneasy and disturbed—it tells it to be quiet in ignorance which it hates, or in error which it despises : it may very properly say, 'wait for the discovery of the whole truth --but still the mind retains its abhorrence of ignorance and its aspirations after complete knowledge. The best, therefore, that this salvo can effect is to keep the active and inquiring faculties in a state of une sy neutrality. Every rational being feels that it is a law of his nature to prefer knowledge to ignorance, just as it is a corresponding law to prefer light to darkness; hence to the same nature perfect knowledge is better than partial, and as far as he can aspire to this, he does it necessarily, as one of the highest means of happiness. Every mind may not have the patience, or the industry, or the resolution to follow out its love of knowledge, but all will do so who have felt it to be their happiness to aspire after it, and an essential condition to their enjoyment in it, that its several departments shall appear in harmony—or at least supply no contradictions and discrepancies to disturb their reason or offend their love of truth.
2. If the mind becomes unsettled and dissatisfied under a sense of positive disagreement among perceived truths in general, then this disquietude rises higher in proportion to the magnitude of the interests that lie at stake, or the importance of the principles that may be implicated. If the disagreement necessarily presupposes that error has been admitted into our reasonings, or imposition practised upon our senses, and if those errors may by any possibility be found pregnant with injury to ourselves, then our disquietude increases proportionably. If the highest interests are hereby brought into jeopardy, the mind endures a painful conflict to which it perceives no termination or relief. To suffer any of these positive discrepancies between our religion and our philosophy to burthen the mind by remaining unsolved, supposing any reasonable solution is proposed, or that by dint of any mental labor we might reach one, is not only injurious to the honor of our religion, but a wanton exposure of our own minds to the temptation of abandoning, in some gloomy hour, all our religious feelings and opinions as mere fallacies and delusions. The ad
versary of our souls will not fail, sooner or later, to ply us with the difficulties alleged against our religion. He will entrench bimself in the proposition, that it is far more likely we have been deceived in the reasoning which has led us to credit the Bible, than in the direct and unquestionable evidence of our senses.
Hence we may be driven on towards a state of infidelity, or become bewildered in doubt and scepticism.
3. If we could reconcile ourselves to hold the truth of a religion which seems to be contradicted by science, and, at the same time, admit the truths of a science which is directly contradicted by our religion, or resort to a middle course by holding the facts of science in doubt and abeyance, suspecting that the fallacy must lie there, and resort to this rotten kind of truce for the sake of retaining that which we feel to be infinitely more precious and important to us than all the human sciences put together; yet we ought not to expect that others, who feel less powerfully and tenderly the claims of religion, will do the same. How could we ask those who are not yet convinced of the importance of religion, or of the paramount claims of revelation, to listen to our arguments on its behalf, when, in the first step of the argument, we require them to abandon conclusions which are as clearly established in their view as their own existence. It would evidently be next to impossible for religion to make good its way in the face of such difficulties, especially when it is further considered that every human heart is naturally disinclined to accept the humbling truths of christianity, and predisposed to catch at every excuse for unbelief. To be indifferent to the supposed discrepancies, were to be indifferent to the success of the gospel, and the everlasting happiness of mankind; to give up the honor and truth of the Bible; place ourselves in the predicament of believing absurdities; and leave a resistless weapon in the hands of infidelity. The world as well as the philosophers must be expected to repudiate the authority of a professed revelation which seems to contradict the combined evidence of sense and reason. They will not listen for a moment to a teacher that sets aside natural facts, or aims to persuade them by his dogmatic authority that things are not as they perceive them to be. For their sake, therefore, it is supremely desirable that the disagreements should be fully and fearlessly examined, and, if possible, so adjusted, as to leave the respective authorities of revelation and science unimpeachable in their respective departments. In fact, for any man to believe contrary to the evidence of his senses, is at once to annul the rights of reason, concede the principle of the popish dogma of transubstantiation, and sap the very foundation of revealed religion.
Hence it behoves the zealous friends of the Bible to be cautious how they use against the discoveries of science an argument that may be turned against themselves with the most disastrous effect.