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close, as we began, by avowing our belief that the humanitarian element of our recent most popular writers, and Adam Bede among the number, is really derived from the teachings of the New Testament, and is one of the many signs of the times, that these teachings are destined to be universally received and acted on.
Art. IV.—THE COSMOS A PROOF OF ONE
Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe.
By ALEX. VON HUMBOLDT. Vol. 5. Harper & Brothers :
New-York. 1859. Contributions to the Natural History of the United States of
America. By Louis AGASSIZ. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. Vols I. and II. Histoire des Sciences Naturelles depuis leur Origine, par
Cosmos, whose primary signification was ornament, and secondary, order and harmony, is the word now generally used for the Universe, with special reference to its order and unity. Pythagoras appears to have been the first to use it in this elevated and extended sense, after whom it was widely employed for the same purpose. Thus in Aristotle, by far the most exact and scientific of Greek writers, the word signifies the universe and the order pervading it. (De Colo, i. 9.)
The Latin mundus was employed by the Romans as a synonym of Cosmos, though a much feebler word, and less legitimately applied to the totality of created things. Its original meaning was similar, but it had not acquired the necessary secondary signification and association.
Descartes projected a work under the title of Traité du Monde, using the word evidently in the sense of Cosmos, an opus magnum he failed to complete.
Earth and world are often used interchangeably in English, and are not, therefore, sufficiently precise for scientific purposes. Even Nature and Universe have not the necessary prima facie sense of order, harmony, unity. Nature, indeed, is often and accurately used to denote the inward hidden principle, as universe is to include the sum total of sensible phenomena.
But Cosmos is the one word of undoubted origin, and universal usage since Pythagoras, to express not merely the totality, but more especially, the unity of the universe. (Plutarch, De Plac. Phil. II.) Also Galen, (Hist. Phil. p. 429.) And in the treatise De Mundo, (Cap. 11.,) “kóquos oti ouotquia és ουρανού και γης και των εν τούτοις περι εκομένων φύσεων.»
The Cosmos, then, is the sum of the sensible universe, the assemblage of all things in heaven and on earth, conceived as animated by a soul of harmony, controlled by a principle of order, and radiant with an expression of beauty.
This was the ancient formula which we, as Christians, are able to interpret and elevate into the more truthful, because exact expressions of Divine power, wisdom, and goodness, the handiwork of the one and only God, the Creator of its substance, the Originator and Director of its forces, the Architect of its forms, the Author of its order, the Fashioner of its beauty, and the Arbiter of all its issues.
The language they employed assures us that the Greeks, and, in an inferior degree, the Romans had a clear perception of a certain order in the universe, but the conclusions they reached respecting the Author of this order, were considerably confused.
We refer not to Atheistic or Eleatic philosophers, who flourished as numerously then as since, but to the Theistic, or rather Polytheistic, who agreed in acknowledging the universe as in some sense the work of Divine Beings, but who were unable to conceive, either of an absolutely original creation, or of God as the Absolute (ne. It is often said, indeed, that philosophy had subverted the foundations of polytheism long before the advent of Christ. But Cudworth, whose immortal review of the whole subject, is an authority than which none is higher, and who will certainly not be suspected of a dispo
sition to suppress a particle of evidence in favor of the philosophers, is obliged to confess, that while most of them held to a supreine Deity—they all, from Plato down, recognized a host of inferior divinities. Hence he denominates them Monarchists, but denies them the appellation of Monotheists.
Occasionally, however, one unexpectedly meets with a passage, which (if we may suppose his words were signs to the writer of the same ideas as they are to us) would be thought admirable if found in any author of modern times. Of this character is the prayer cited by Cudworth, which Euripides puts in the mouth of one of his heroes :
“O Thou who guid'st the rolling of the earth,
And o'er it hast thy throne, whoe'er thou art,
But, with the exception of a very few passages, kindred in sentiment to these lines of the Greek poet, the literature of every nation unblest by the light of revelation, affords lamentable proof of the incapacity of man's unaided reason to arrive at a clear conception of one God, beside whom there is none else.
It was necessary that the Bible should first make known the doctrire, before we could verify it from the light of nature. It may even be doubted whether the very discoveries which now so abundantly confirm the truth of the Divine unity, would themselves ever have been made, if the sublime representations of the Scriptures had not cleared up and raised the notions of mankind respecting the majesty of God, and referred them to the creation as the work of His hand, abounding in proofs of His unity, power, wisdom, and love. (Romans 1:20–25.)
And even now, (since none are so blind as those who will not see;) we are scandalized, and human nature itself is dishonored, by the spectacle of proud philosophers, disdaining to acknowledge the Divine origin either of the Bible or of the Universe.
Rejecting the Scriptures as of mythical origin, and regarding the universe as an enigma insoluble by man, they differ among themselves, as to whether they shall deny the reality of the Finite or the Infinite, and agree only in degrading the one, and defying the other. Did not St. Paul do well to warn us against the oppositions of science, falsely so-called, the “great swelling words,” and “proud, contentious spirit” of its devotees?
Never was this spirit more rife than now. Never before did it find utterance in such pompous phrase. Never did this false philosophy so vaunt itself as if it would crush Christianity in the madness of its rage, and, by the boldness of its onsets, setting all rational calculations at defiance.
Tho Church has despised its methods, and, therefore, too often ignored its existence, and disregarded its inroads on the faith. The results, indeed, are not discernible in a day, and it may be never seen in connection with their causes. Nevertheless, these causes exist, are active and efficient in producing the evils of unbelief, first, in the closet of the scholar, and then through the pages of our popular literature, and even from some (so-called) pulpits.
In this state of things, what is the duty of Christian menwhat becoming in the clergy more especially? If we let these men alone, they go on publishing their views, and proclaiming that we are frightened into silence by their formidable weapons of attack. They arrogate to themselves the learning and thought of the age, and the highest results of modern civilization. They boldly assert that the points on which they are compelled to differ from the Church are those of scholarship, science, well-attested principles of philosophy. They affect to pity us as benighted, behind the age, and personally past mending, hopelessly sunk in superstition.
Now, Christian scholars may, and do smile at all this, but if they allow it to pass unchallenged, it has the effect of proof positive on the popular mind, especially when repeated a thousand times, and in a thousand forms, as it has been and will continue to be.
But what shall be done? To descend into the arena of satanic strife, and to bandy there personal abuse with these men, would be as repugnant to our feelings as it would be inconsistent with our character, whether Christian or clerical.
Science, physical and metaphysical, being the ostensible ground of these attacks, obviously the weapons of our defense must be drawn from the same source. This is no disparagement to the Scriptures, or to the scriptural argument, since these were not designed for this mode of warfare, nor would their authority be allowed by our opponents, however conclusive it might be.
Further, apologetic, or merely defensive arguments, are not sufficient. A merely defensive attitude is weak, as a position. and a mistake as policy. The Christian warfare is aggressive in all its phases, and in none more so than in this.
No Christian doubts the existence of a personal Deity, or that the Author of Nature and of the Bible is one God. If all believers were natural philosophers, each would be competent to contest the dicta of a skeptical philosophy, out of the fullness of his own mind. But since all are not born or bred philosophers, it becomes the duty of Christiau scholars in this age to give particular attention to such departments of learning as will best qualify them to meet and repel the assaults of infidel sciolists. If Christian men, and especially the clergy, will but give such a degree of attention to Natural Science in particular, as its present importance demands, the day is not distant when the injurious impression of an antagonism between Science and Scripture, reason and faith, will be wholly removed.
If feasible, we should advocate the endowment of professorships of Natural Science in all our Theological Seminaries, and make acquisitions in this department of knowledge second only to that of the Sacred Science of Christian Theology. Such a scheme, however desirable, is impracticable for the present, and we therefore earnestly commend to our clerical brethren, as well as to candidates for holy orders, the study of those great works which teach us all that can be learned on these subjects, at least from books.
Among the authors of such works none rank higher than