Combe, George, Science and religion. 1893 (First published 1857).
This transcription copyright John van Wyhe 2002. http://www.historyofphrenology.org.uk/
Pagination has been carefully preserved to make the text as quotable as the original though line hyphenation has been removed.
This work may be copied freely by individuals for personal use, research, and teaching (including distribution to classes) as long as this statement of availability is included in the text. Use with acknowledgement.
THE SELECT WORKS OF GEORGE COMBE.
ISSUED BY AUTHORITY OF THE COMBE TRUSTEES.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION.
THE SELECT WORKS OF GEORGE COMBE.
the series includes:—
The Constitution of Man.
Science and Religion.
Discussions on Education.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION.
" Impiety clears the soul of its consecrated errors, but it does not fill the heart
of man. Impiety alone will never ruin a human worship. A faith destroyed must
be replaced by a faith. It is not given to irreligion to destroy a religion on earth.
It is hut a religion more enlightened which can really triumph over a religion
fallen into contempt by replacing it. The earth cannot remain without an altar,
and God only is strong enough against God!"— lamartine's History of the
Girondists (Vol. I., p. 16 ; Bohn, 1848).
CASSELL and COMPANY, limited :
LONDON, PARIS & MELBOURNE.
THE CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY:
the nucleus of this work was a pamphlet published by George Combe in April, 1847, with the title "On the Relation between. Religion and Science." A second edition was issued a few months later, and the entire essay was reproduced in the Phrenological Journal for July of the same year.
The publication brought on the author, with renewed virulence, the charges of irreverence and atheism to which he had been subjected for nearly thirty years. Referring to these attacks, he said : " No religious martyr ever held his faith more purely and firmly than I hold my own convictions. . . . Like the veteran soldier who has escaped unhurt from fifty battles, I hear the cannonade of passion and prejudice with a feeling that it cannot reach me."
To the charge that he had subordinated Scripture to the law of Nature, he replied in a letter to Mrs. Whately : " I have not said that Scripture is derived from natural religion, but only that its practical precepts regarding human conduct in tins world must be supported by the order of Nature, otherwise that they cannot produce practical fruits. But natural religion appears to me to be derived from Nature, and not from Scripture."
Going on to explain his general position, he says, in the same letter : " I regard the external world as designedly adapted by God to the human mind and body, and as containing within itself (by this Divine appointment) objects and relations addressed to, and intended *o arouse, excite, and gratify, all our faculties.
In short, I recognise God—His adaptations in everything animate and inanimate ; I feel myself constantly in His presence, and every moment under the control and discipline of His laws. Revelation may present higher objects than Nature to our faculties, but Nature does appear to me to address them all.
"By you, perhaps, similar views are entertained, but I go a step further. I do not regard all the Divine adaptations unfolded to us through Causality and Comparison as intended merely to excite a devout Wonder and Veneration, without leading us to do anything practically. On the contrary, I see practical lessons embodied in every one of God's natural institutions."
George Combe's cardinal doctrine thus was that God had revealed Himself in Nature as well as in Scripture ; that the one revelation was as instructive in its facts, and as binding in its lessons, as the other ; and that the two revelations are in entire harmony, except when. God's message is perverted by man-made creeds.
The pamphlet of 1847 grew under his hand until, in 1857, it assumed the dimensions of a volume.
That volume was affectionately inscribed to his. friend Dr. Charles Mackay, in token of "A friendship of long duration, admiration of your genius, and cordial sympathy with the purposes to which you have devoted it."
In a letter to Mr. Benjamin Templar in 1858, George-Combe wrote regarding this work : " I consider it the most original, and, in its distant results, the most important of all my productions but this may be, like a parent's love of his youngest child, because it is my last."
Edinburgh, October, 1893.
AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT.
Effect of the Reformation ........ 1
Belief in God's special intervention ...... 2
And in that of the Devil ........ 4
Founded in Judaism . . . . . . . . .5
Providence rules by general laws in the physical world . . 7 Also, in the moral world ......... 8
Divine authority of the Natural Laws ...... 0
Ignored "by the Churches ........ 10
And by Politicians . . . . . . . . . .11
Views of Archbishop Whately . . . . . . .12
Lord Palmerston and the Edinburgh Presbytery . . . .13
A second Reformation needed . . . . , - .15
Views of Carlyle and Chalmers . . . , , . .10
View of Dr. Tholuck . ........ 17
Need of reconciling Science and Religion ..... 19
THE COMPLEX CHARACTER OF RELIGION.
Definition of Science and of Religion ...... 20
Religion partly emotional, partly intellectual . . . .21
The meaning of Consecration ....... 22
What Theology means ......... 23
Difference between Theology and Religion . , . . .23 Warp arid Woof . . . . . . . . . .24
Nature not recognised as sacred ....... 23
Is a Natural Theology possible F . . . . . .27
Origin of the idea of God ....,.,. 29
Among the Greeks and the Romans ...... 29
Among the Jews .......... 30
The Mahommedan idea . . . . , . . . .31
The Christian idea .......... 33
The Roman Catholic interpretation . . . , . .34 The Reformers' interpretation ....... 35
Origin of dogma .......... 36
Ideas of God derived from Nature ...... 37
Belief in God intuitive or rational ...... 38
The province of Reason ........ 40
The adaptations in Nature not accidental ..... 41
Reply to the Atheist's argument ....... 43
Objection to the argument from Design . . , , .44 Answered ........... 45
The mode of God's existence inscrutable ..... 47
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHYSICAL AND MORAL WORLDS.
I. The Government of the Physical World ..... 50
The regulation of the forces of Nature ...... 51
The physical sciences manifestations of Divine power . . .52
II. The Government of the Moral World . .... 53
Evidences of law and order in the lower animals . . . .54
Ignored by dogmatic religion ....... 55
What the moral government of the world means . . . .56
Absence of its practical recognition ...... 57
Ignorance of Natural Laws the grand obstacle . . . .59
LIFE AND DEATH.
The Christian dogma of Death ....... 60
Death, according to Science, a natural institution . . .61
The grand evils of Death ........ 62
Death a beneficent institution ....... 64
Relations of Life and Death to the natural Constitution of Man . 05
How the duration of Life may be extended ..... 65
"Uniformity of the death-rate ....... C6
Is it Fatalism, or Causation ? ....... 67
Example : the sense of Hearing ....... 68
Vindication of God's secular providence ..... 69
Knowledge of the Natural Laws, Divine truth . . . .70
Suffering for their infraction pre-ordained by God . . .71
That suffering may be avoided by knowledge and forethought . 72
Testimony of the records of mortality ...... 73
Sir James Simpson' s Tables ........ 74
The effects of foul air .......... 75
The voice of Nature ; that is, of God ...... 76
The prison versus the hospital ........ 77
The cry of Infidelity .......',. 78
Case of Exeter and Tiverton ....,.,. 79
Appeal to the lower faculties ...,.,.. 80
Longevity and Happiness ........ 81
MORAL GOVERNMENT OF NATIONS.
Are the Bible precepts as to justice and mercy practical ? . .83
The Case of England and Ireland ....... 84
Disbelief in Moral Government on the part of rulers; . . . 85
Results of England's misgovernment of Ireland . . , .87
Free Trade a triumph of moral force ...... 88
Superiority of Moral to Physical Force ...... 90
The Case of England and India . . . . . . .91
Inconsistency of national spoliation with Christianity . . . 92
England's Indian policy a mistake ...... 94
Benevolent conquest a pretence ....... 95
Proofs of amoral government by Natural Laws . . . .97
THE WOULD AN INSTITUTION.
What is an Institution ? ........ 99
Example : The Planetary System ....... 99
,, The Ocean ......... 100
,, Natural History ........ 101
„ Geology ......... 101
,, The Human Constitution ...... 103
Original Sin and Anesthetics . . . . . . .104
Pain and Disease, not essential parts of the Institution. . .104 Adaptation in Physical Nature . . . . . . .105
The doctrine of the Church of Scotland. . . . . .107
Opposed to the view that the world is an Institution . . .110 The Catechism inconsistent with the order of Nature . , . 112
THE SACREDNESS OF NATURE.
Rejection of the laws of Providence, practical atheism . . 114 Labour not a curse, but a boon ....... 116
The objection from suffering, futile ...... 11"
Provisions in Nature for the mitigation of suffering . . .118 Decline of parental love, benevolent . . . . . .119
Decline of the fear of Death . . . . . . , .120
The Benevolence of Natural Law . . . . . . .121
Necessity of correct views of God and His government. . . 122: Conditions of our knowledge of God . . . . . .124
The difference between Obeying and Comprehending . . . 125 Service of the Shaking Quakers in America ..... 126
Compared with Roman Catholic ceremonies . . . . .128
What worship accords with the human faculties ? ... 129' The relation, of Nature to the religious emotions . . . .130
Aim of the religious emotions ....... 131
Impressions modified by mental constitution , . , . 132 Basis of religion and morality in Nature ..... 133
RELIGIOUS DISCIPLINE OF NATURE.
Meaning of Discipline ......... 131
Every line of conduct must be moral ...... 135
Doubtful condemnation of Mammonism . . . . .136
Real cause of the evils of wealth . . . . . . .138
What is the Higher Life ........ 139
Harmony between the intellectual and the moral faculties and the Institutions of God ........ 141
Result of severing religion from the laws of Nature . . . 144 Distinctive character of Christianity ...... 145
Its disadvantages .......... 146
THE BONDAGE OF DOGMA.
Differences among Christians ....... 148
No system of doctrines in the Bible ...... 149
Influences undermining Christianity ...... 150
Dogma an obstacle to social progress ...... 151
Doctrines of the Pall and the Atonement ..... 152
Origin of Moral Evil, according to Natural Law .... 102
Abuses of the Christian doctrines . . . , . . .153 Case of the penitent felon ........ 154
Dogma powerless against crime ....... 156
The Papal power opposed to liberty and improvement . . .157 The power of Protestantism not less injurious .... 158
Opposition of the Clergy to the Divine order of Nature . .159 How dogma supports despotism ....... 160
Why tyranny is impossible in England ..... 161
Potency of the moral government of the World .... 162
CONVICTION AND BELIEF.
The doctrine of Heaven and Hell an instrument of power . . 165 The authority of the letter of Scripture . . . . .166
The distinction between conviction and belief ..... 167
Two sources of Belief—intuition and testimony .... 168
Man-concocted articles of faith . . . . . . .169
The motive of the Clergy . . . . . . . .171
Origin of the belief in eternal punishment . . . . .172
Conviction dependent on Divine manifestations in Nature . . 174 Belief dependent on Clerical interpretations . . . . .174
Dogmatic religion makes the Clergy a separate class . . .175 Reformation must begin with the laity . . . . . .176
No hostile design, against Religion . . . . . .177
Religions founded on the supernatural ...... 179
Influence of Natural Science with the Hindus .... 180
Natural Religion potent against superstition .... 182
THE DOGMAS AS PRACTICAL RULES.
Obstructive effects of the Dogmas in Legislation .... 183
The cause of this state of things, the ignoring of Natural Law . 184
Dogmas of the Emperor of Russia ...... 185
The Dogmas obstructive in Education ...... 186
The differences of sects inimical to the course of Nature . . 188
The Education Grant, an endowment of discord .... 189
The torrent of Sectarianism ........ 190
Success of the Non-sectarian System in the United States . . 192
Failure of the Voluntary System in England .... 193
The Dogmas and the monopoly of Sunday ..... 194
The Dogmas are the religion of the dogmatists .... 197
CONCLUSION—THE REFORMED FAITH.
Human Nature the central point of inquiry . . . . .199
Its relation to the religious faculties . . . . . .199
The qualities and relations of Natural objects .... 200
The Laws of Nature are Divine Laws ...... 201
Distinction between Religion and Theology ..... 202
The Higher Life, under the reformed faith ..... 203
The future destiny of Man, under the reformed faith . . . 204
The Bible no obstacle . . . . . . . . 205
Value of Science teaching ........ 205
Divine government discernible in Nature . . , . 207
Prince Albert quoted ......... 208
Realisation of a present Deity ....... 209
I. On the Worship of the Shakers . . . . . .211
II. Heaven and Hell ......... 213
III. Note on Dr. McCosh's " Method of the Divine Government ".......... 216
IV. Speech of Lord John Russell on Teaching Natural Theology
in Common Schools ........ 218
V. The Teaching of Physiology in Common Schools . . . 221
SCIENCE AND RELIGION.
CHAPTER I. an historical retrospect.
the Reformation in the sixteenth century produced a powerful effect on the European mind. The miracles, precepts, and sublime devotional effusions of the Old and New Testaments excited with deep intensity the religious sentiments of the people, and introduced ardent discussions on temporal and eternal interests which, unfortunately, were followed by furious and desolating wars. Freedom on earth, and salvation in heaven or perdition in hell, were the mighty topics which then engaged public attention.
In the beginning of the seventeenth century, a generation born and educated under these exciting influences appeared upon the stage. The Reformation was then consummated, but the duty remained of acting it out in deeds. The new generation had read in the Books of the Old Testament of a people whose King was God ; whose national councils were guided by Omniscience ; and whose enterprises, whether in peace or in war, were aided and accomplished by Omnipotence employing means altogether apart from the ordinary course of Nature. The New Testament presented records of a continued exercise of similar supernatural powers ; and the great lesson taught in both seemed to that generation to be, that the power of God was
2 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [CHAP. I.
exercised as a shield to protect, and an irresistible influence to lead to success and victory in secular affairs, those mho believed and worshipped aright, who embraced cordially the doctrines revealed in the sacred volumes, who abjured all self-righteousness and self-reliance, and who threw themselves in perfect confidence and humility on Him as their King, Protector, and Avenger.
In the first half of the seventeenth century the active members of society in England and Scotland embraced these views as principles not only of faith, but of practice. With that earnestness of purpose which is inspired by profound conviction of religious truth, they desired to realise in deeds what they professed as faith. As remarked by Thomas Carlyle, that generation " attempted to bring the Divine law of the Bible into actual practice in men's affairs on the earth." In the contests between Cromwell and the Covenanters, we observe both parties claiming to be " the people of God " ; both asserting that they are directed by Divine influence and supported by Divine power, even when in hostile collision with each other. It is necessary only to read attentively Cromwell's letters and speeches, and the contemporary narratives of the Covenanters, to be satisfied of this fact. Each party ascribed its successes to the Divine approval of its conduct and belief, and its calamities to displeasure with its unbelief or other sins.
When Cromwell overthrew the Scots, and "had the execution of them "—in other words, the slaughter of them—for many miles in the pursuit, he called it " a sweet mercy " vouchsafed to him by God, to whom he devoutly ascribed the glory. After mentioning his victory at Dunbar, the trophies of which were about " three thousand Scots slain," "near ten thousand prisoners," "the whole baggage and train taken," with "all their artillery, great and small," he adds, " It is easy to see the Lord hath done
CHAP. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT, 3
this. It would do you good to see and hear our poor foot to go up and down making their boast of God." *
The Covenanters held the same belief ; but, somewhat inconsistently, while they confessed that their own religious unworthiness had brought upon them the Divine displeasure, they denied to Cromwell the right to interpret the victory as a manifestation of the Divine approval of his faith, principles, and practice : They endeavoured to represent it as merely " an event " ; for which Cromwell rebukes them in the following words :—" You (the men of the Covenant) say that you have not so learned Christ 'as to hang the equity of your cause upon events.' We (for our part) could wish that blindness had not been cast upon your eyes to all those marvellous dispensations which God hath lately wrought in England. But did you not solemnly appeal (to God) and pray 1 Did not we do so too 1 And ought not you and we to think, with fear and trembling, of the hand of the great God in this mighty and strange appearance of His, instead of slightly calling it an event ? Were not both your and our expectations renewed from time to time whilst we waited upon God, to see which way He would manifest Himself upon our appeals 1 And shall we, after all these our prayers, fastings, tears, expectations, and solemn appeals, call these bare events 1 The Lord pity you ! "f
While the people of that age entertained these views of the manner of God's administration of secular affairs, they
* Letter XCII., Cromwell to Lenthal, dated Dunbar, 4th September, 1650; " Carlyle's Cromwell," Vol. II., p. 4L—[In subsequent quotations, the words within single marks of quotation, and within parentheses, are inserted by Mr. Carlyle to make Cromwell's meaning plainer.—En.]
t Letter XCVII., Cromwell to the Governor of Edinburgh Castle, dated Edinburgh, 12th September, 1650; in "Carlyle," Vol. II., p. 65.
4 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [chap. i.
were equally convinced of the supernatural agency of the devil, and with similar earnestness acted on this conviction. They ascribed their sins to Satanic influence on their minds, and attributed to the exercise of Satanic power many of the physical evils under which they suffered. They imagined that this power was exercised by the devil through the instrumentality of human beings, and burned thousands of these supposed agents of the fiend, under the name of witches.
This belief lingered among the Scottish people a century later. In February, 1743, the Associate Presbytery of the Secession Church passed an "Act for Renewing the National Covenant " ; and among other national sins which they confessed and vowed to renounce is mentioned " the repeal of the penal statutes against witchcraft, contrary to the express laws of God, and for which a holy God may be provoked, in a way of righteous judgment, to leave those who are already ensnared to be hardened more and more, and to permit Satan to tempt and seduce others to the same wicked and dangerous snare."
These were the views of God's providence entertained by the religious men of the seventeenth century. Those who were not penetrated by a deep sentiment of religion acted then, as the same class does now, on the views of the order of Nature with which their own experience and observation, aided by those of others, had supplied them. They did not trouble themselves with much inquiry whether this order was systematic or incidental, moral or irrespective of morality, but they acted as their views of expediency dictated at the moment. It is with the opinions of the religious and earnest men of that century that we are now principally engaged.
In commenting on that period, Thomas Carlyle observes, in his own quaint style, that " the nobility and gentry of England were then a very strange body of men. The
chap. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT. 6
English squire of the seventeenth • century clearly appears to have believed in God, not as a figure of speech, but as a very fact, very awful to the heart of the English squire." He adds : " We have wandered far away from the ideas which guided us in that century, and, indeed, which had guided us in all preceding centuries, but of which that century was the ultimate manifestation. We have wandered very far, and must endeavour to return and connect ourselves therewith again." *
• I ask, How shall we return ? This is a grave question, and the answer demands serious consideration.
The grand characteristic of the Jewish dispensation, on which chiefly these views of the Divine government of the world were founded, was that it was special and supernatural. In the seventeenth century the people possessed very little scientific knowledge of the elements, agencies, and laws of inorganic and organic Nature. The Scriptures constituted almost the sole storehouse of deep reflection and profound emotion for that age ; and, in the absence of scientific knowledge, thoughtful men fell naturally into the belief that, as the Scriptures were given for guides to human conduct, the same scheme of Providence, physical and moral, which had prevailed in ancient Jewish times must still continue in force. Their conviction on this point appears to have been profound and genuine, and they attempted to act it out in deeds.
But was there no error of apprehension here ? Were they not mistaken in believing that the course of Providence was the same in their day as it is described to have been among the ancient Jews 2 A brief consideration of their actions, and the results of them, may help us to answer the question.
• Lib. cit., Vol. I., pp. 3 and 87.
6 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [chap. I.
They assumed that the supernatural agencies which Scripture told them had been manifested under the Jewish dispensation might still be evoked, and would, in some form or other, be exerted for their guidance and support, if they appealed to God, and called for them in a right spirit. Hence, instead of studying and conforming to the laws of Nature, they resorted to fastings, humiliations, praise, and prayers, as practical means not only of gaining battles and establishing political power, but of obtaining Divine direction in all the serious affairs of life. Their theology and their science, so far as they had any science, were in harmony. They did not recognise an established and regular order of Nature as the means through which God governs the world, and to which He requires man to adapt his conduct ; hut they regarded every element of physical nature and every faculty of the human mind as under the administration of a special and supernatural Providence. They viewed God as wielding all these elements arbitrarily, according to His will ; and on that will they believed they could operate by religious faith and observances.
In principle, their view of the nature of the Divine administration of the world was similar to that entertained by the Greeks and Romans. Homer's priests and heroes offered supplications to the gods for direct interference in favour of their schemes, and their prayers are represented to have been occasionally successful in bringing supernatural aid. Cromwell, and the men of his age, with more true and exalted conceptions of God, believed in His still administering the affairs of men, not by means of a regular order of causes and effects, but by direct exercises of special power.
I should say that in this condition of mind they were inspired by pure and exalted religious emotions, but misled by great errors in theology. It was under the influence of such views of the Divine administration that the existing
chap. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT. 7
standards of the Church, of England and of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland were framed ; and hence perhaps arose the very meagre recognition of the order of God's providence in the course of Nature as religious truth, and as a system of practical instruction for the guidance of human conduct, which characterises them.
After the days of Cromwell, however, the human understanding, by a profounder and more exact study of Nature, obtained a different view of the course of Providence in the administration of temporal affairs. Science revealed a system in which every object, animate or inanimate, appears to be endowed with peculiar qualities and powers, which it preserves and exerts with undeviating regularity as long as its circumstances continue unchanged ; and in which each object is adapted with wisdom and benevolence to the others, and all to man. In the words of the Rev. Mr. Sedgwick, science unfolded a fixed order of creation so clear and intelligible that " we are justified in saying that in the moral as in the physical world, God seems to govern by general laws."—" I am not now," says he, " contending for the doctrine of moral necessity ; but I do affirm that the moral government of God is by general laws, and that it is our bounden duty to study those laws, and, as far as vie can, turn them to our account." *
Here, then, an important revolution has been effected in the views of profound thinkers in regard to the mode in which Providence administers this world. Science has banished from their minds belief in the exercise by the Deity, in our day, of special acts of supernatural power as a means of influencing human affairs ; and it has presented a systematic order of Nature, which man may study, comprehend, and follow as a guide to his practical conduct.
* "Discourse on the Studies of the University" (of Cambridge). By Adam Sedgwick, M.A., 3rd edition, p. 9.
8 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [chap. I.
In point of fact, the new faith has already partially taken the place of the old. In everything physical, men now act on the belief that this world's administration is conducted on the principle of an established order of Nature, in which objects and agencies are presented to man for his study, are to some extent placed under his control, and are wisely calculated to promote his instruction and enjoyment.
Some persons adopt the same view in regard even to moral affairs. The creed of the modern man of science is well expressed by Mr. Sedgwick in the following words :— " If there be a superintending Providence, and if His will be manifested by general laws, operating both on the physical and moral world, then must a violation of these laws be a violation of His will, and be pregnant with inevitable misery. Nothing can, in the end, be expedient for man, except it be subordinate to those laws the Author of Nature has thought fit to impress on His moral and physical creation!' Other clergymen also embrace the same view. The Rev. Dr. Thomas Guthrie, in his "Plea for Ragged Schools," observes that " They commit a grave mistake who forget that injury as inevitably results from flying in the face of a moral or mental as of a physical law."
This revolution in practical belief, however, is only partial ; and the great characteristic of the religious mind at the present day is its aversion to the doctrine of an intelligible, moral, and practical system of government, revealed by God to man in the order of Nature for the guidance of his conduct, and that correct expositions of this system possess the character of religious truths. This unbelief in an intelligible and practically useful Divine government in Nature affects our religion, our literature, and our conduct. I put the following questions in all earnestness :— Are the fertility of the soil, the health of the body, the prosperity of individuals and of nations—in short, the great secular interests of mankind—now governed by special acts
chap. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT. 9
of supernatural power 1 Science answers that they are not. Are they, then, governed by any regular and comprehensible natural laws 1 If they are not, then is this world a theatre of anarchy, and consequently of atheism ; it is a world without the practical manifestation of a god.
If, on the other hand, such laws exist as science proclaims, they must be of Divine institution, and worthy of all reverence ; and I ask, in the standards of what Church, from the pulpits of what sect, and in the schools of what denomination of Christians, are these laws taught as religious truths of Divine authority, and as practical guides for conduct in this world's affairs ? If we do not now live under a special supernatural government of the world, but under a government by natural laws, and if these laws are not studied, honoured, and obeyed as God's laws, are we not actually a nation without a religion in harmony with the true order of Providence, and therefore without a religion adapted to practical purposes ?
The answer will probably be that this argument is infidelity ; but, with all deference, I reply that the denial of a regular, intelligible, wisely adapted, and Divinely appointed order of Nature, as a guide to human conduct in this world, is practical atheism ; while the acknowledgment of the existence of such an order, accompanied by the nearly universal neglect of teaching and obeying its requirements, is real infidelity, is disrespectful ^to God, and injurious to the best interests of man. Christians cannot consistently believe that God answers the prayers of Mahommedans, Hindus, Persians, and Chinese, for they deny the soundness of their faiths ; nor that He exercises a special providence for their guidance to temporal prosperity, and for their consolation in affliction and in the hour of death : and yet, if God really governs the world, His laws must apply to these nations as well as to Christians.
The Churches which have at all recognised the order of
10 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [chap. I.
Nature have attached to it a lower character than that which truly belongs to it. They do not recognise it as religious : i.e., as an administration of Divine origin, deserving of reverential obedience. They have treated science and secular knowledge chiefly as objects of curiosity and sources of gain, and have given to actions intelligently founded on them the character of prudence. So humble has been their estimate of the importance of science, that they have not systematically called in the influence of the religious sentiments to hallow, elevate, and enforce the teachings of Nature. In most of their schools the elucidation of the relations of science to human conduct is omitted altogether, and catechisms of human invention usurp its place.
Society, meantime, including the Calvinistic world itself, proceeds in its secular enterprises on the basis of natural science, so far as it has been able to discover it. If practical men send a ship to sea, they endeavour to render it staunch and strong, and to place in it an expert crew and an able commander, as conditions of safety, dictated by their conviction of the order of Nature in flood and storm ; if they are sick, they resort to a physician to restore them to health according to the ordinary laws of organisation ; if they suffer famine from wet seasons, they drain their lands ; and so forth. All these practices and observances are taught and enforced by men of science and the secular press as measures of practical prudence ; but few Churches recognise the order of Nature, on which they are founded, as an object of reverence, and a becoming subject of religious instruction.
On the contrary, from the days of Galileo to the present time, religious professors have too often made war on science, on scientific teachers, and on the order of Nature ; and many of them still adhere, as far as the reason and light of the public mind will permit them, to their old
CHAP. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT. 11
doctrine of an inherent disorder reigning in the natural world. That disorder prevails is undeniable ; but science proclaims that it is to a great extent owing to man's ignorance of his own nature and of that of the external world, and to his neglect of their relations.
Many theologians do not recognise such views, but proceed as if human affairs were, somehow or other, still, in our day, influenced by special manifestations of Divine power. In Parliament, it was said by Mr. Plumptre, while discussing the famine in Ireland in 1846-7 through the failure of the potato crop, that " though he did not mean to enter at large into the question where the guilt which had drawn down upon them this tremendous dispensation lay —whether that guilt lay with the people or the rulers—ho could not help expressing what he considered to be a well-founded opinion, that the rulers of this country had deeply offended by some Acts which they had recently placed on the statute-book, and which, in his belief, were calculated to bring down the Divine displeasure on the land."
It is conjectured that this honourable gentleman had in view the grant to the Roman Catholic College of Maynooth and the repeal of the corn-laws as the offences which, in his opinion, were calculated to bring down the Divine displeasure on the land. Be the acts what they may, the speech implied that, in his opinion, sin in the people or in their rulers had led to a special deflection of physical nature from its ordinary course, in order to produce a famine, for the punishment, not of the offenders, but of men, women, and children promiscuously, most of whom had no control over the transactions.
These notions would be unworthy of notice were it not a fact that they are still embraced as religion by large numbers of our people. In the olden time, eclipses were viewed as portentous announcements of Heaven's wrath against sinners ; but the discovery of unswerving physical
12 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [CHAP. I.
laws, by which the motions of the heavenly bodies are regulated, and in virtue of which the certain occurrence of eclipses can be predicted, has expunged that superstition from the civilised mind. Nevertheless, the same blind love of the wonderful and the mysterious, which led our ancestors to quail before a natural and normal obscuration of the sun, leads the unenlightened mind in our day to see in sin the causes of such visitations as cholera and agricultural blights, instead of looking for them in physical conditions presented to our understandings as problems to be solved, and to be then turned to account in avoiding future evils. Examples are frequently occurring of this conflict between the views of men who acknowledge a practical natural providence and those who do not.
Archbishop Whately, in his " Address to the Clergy and other Members of the Established Church on the Use and Abuse of the Present Occasion " (the famine in Ireland in 1846-47), says :—
" But advantage has been taken of the existing calamity to inculcate, with a view to the conversion of persons whom I believe to be in error, doctrines which I cannot but think utterly unsound, and of dangerous tendency, by arguments which will not stand the test of calm and rational examination. There are some who represent the present famine (as indeed they did the cholera some years back) as a Divine judgment, sent for the punishment of what they designate as national sins, especially the degree of toleration and favour shown to the members of the Church of Home. Now, this procedure, the attributing to such and such causes the sap-posed Divine wrath, is likely, when those of a different creed from our own are thus addressed, to be by some of them rejected as profane presumption, and by others retorted. When, once men begin to take upon them the office of inspired prophets, and to pronounce boldly what are the counsels of the Most High, it is as easy to do this on the one side as on the other. Roman Catholics who are told that a pestilence or a famine is sent as a judgment on the land for the toleration of Romanism may contend that, on
CHAP. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT. 13
the contrary, it is Protestantism that is the national sin. And without the evidence of a sensible miracle to appeal to, neither party can expect to convince the other.
"When Israel was afflicted with a famine in the days of Elijah, on account of the idolatry of those of the people who had offended the Lord by worshipping Baal, the idolaters might have contended that the judgment was sent by Baal against the worshippers of Jehovah, had not the prophet expressly denounced that judgment beforehand, and foretold both the commencement, and afterwards the termination, of the drought, besides calling down the fire from heaven upon the altar. This it is that enables us to pronounce that that famine was a Divine judgment sent for that sin of Israel; and for what sin ! And it is the same with the many similar cases that are recorded in Scripture. That Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed on account of their abominable wickedness we know, because Scripture tells us so. And that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for tempting the Spirit of God we know, and all present knew, because the Apostle Peter announced beforehand their fate, and declared the crime which called it down. Bat for any uninspired man-to take upon him to make similar declarations respecting any one of his neighbours who may die suddenly, or concerning any city that may be destroyed by a volcano or an earthquake, is as irrational and presumptuous as it is uncharitable and unchristian."
Another example is contained in a letter addressed by Lord Palmerston, as Home Secretary, to the Presbytery of Edinburgh, in answer to their inquiry whether he intended to advise the Queen to order a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer to be observed in Scotland, in order to supplicate Divine Providence to stay the cholera which afflicted the people in 1854 :—
" The Maker of the universe has established certain laws of Nature for the planet in which we live, and the weal or woe of mankind depends upon the observance or the neglect of those laws. One of those laws connects health with the absence of those gaseous exhalations which proceed from overcrowded human beings or from decomposing substances, whether animal or
14 SCIENCE AND RELIGION. [chap. I.
vegetable; and those same laws render sickness the almost inevitable consequence of exposure to those noxious influences. But it has at the same time pleased Providence to place it within the power of man to make such arrangements as will prevent or disperse such exhalations, so as to render them harmless ; and it is the duty of man to attend to those laws of Nature, and to exert the faculties which Providence has thus given to man for his own welfare.
" The recent visitation of cholera, which has for the moment been mercifully checked, is an awful warning given to the people of this realm that they have too much neglected their duty in this respect, and that those persons with whom it rested to purify towns and cities, and to prevent or remove the causes of disease, have not been sufficiently active in regard to such matters. Lord Palmerston would, therefore, suggest that the best course which the people of this country can pursue to deserve that the further progress of the cholera should be stayed will he to employ the interval that will elapse between the present time and the beginning of next spring in planning and executing measures by which those portions of their towns and cities which are inhabited by the poorest classes, and which, from the nature of things, must most need purification and improvement, may be freed from those causes and sources of contagion which, if allowed to remain, will infallibly breed pestilence, and be fruitful in death, in spite of all the prayers and fastings of a united but inactive nation. When man has done his utmost for his own safety, then is the time to invoke the blessing of Heaven to give effect to his exertions."
The majority of the Presbytery expressed great dissatisfaction with this communication, and refused to acknowledge that cleansing the town would be a becoming substitute for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, as a means of averting cholera. The civic rulers of Edinburgh, however, acted on it, and with very beneficial effects ; for the disease fell far more lightly on the city on this occasion than at the previous visitation in 1831.
It is impossible that the public mind can advance in sound and self-consistent practical principles of action in
chap. I.] AN HISTORICAL RETROSPECT. 15
this world's affairs while conflicting views of science, religion, and the course of God's providence are poured forth from the pulpit and the press ; and it is equally impossible that the youthful mind can be trained to study, reverence, and conform to the course of God's providence, while that providence is treated with so little consideration by those who assume the character of accredited expositors of the Divine will.
The questions, then, whether there be an intelligible course of Nature revealed to the human understanding, whether it should be taught to the young, and whether the religious sentiments should be trained to venerate and conform to it as of Divine institution, are not barren speculations respecting dogmas and doctrines. They touch a highly momentous practical principle. While an impassable gulf stands between the views of God's providence on which society in its daily business acts, and the religious faith which it professes to hold, the influence of the latter on social conduct must necessarily be feeble and limited. It is a matter of great importance to have the principles of action and of belief brought into harmony. Nothing can retard the moral and intellectual advancement of the people more thoroughly than having a theology for Churches and Sundays, and a widely different code of principles for everyday conduct ; and yet this is, and must continue to be, the case with all the Christian nations while they fail to recognise and to study the order of Nature as a Divinely appointed guide to human action.
A second Reformation in religion is imperatively called for, and is preparing. The devout teacher will recognise man and the natural world as constituted by Divine benevolence and wisdom, and as adapted to each other for man's instruction and benefit. He will communicate to the young a knowledge of that constitution and its adaptations as the basis of their religious faith and practice in reference to