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By Rev. Baden Powell 

The views of Bacon and the tendency of his rrinciples of Bacon. philosophy Iare marked throughout by the elevated nature of their beaxing on the grounds of religious belief. The same master mind which dictated the more purely philosophical part of the system, is equally conspicuous in its higher applications, and especially in the expression of conceptions of the sublime inferences from the order of the natural I Advancement of Learning, 1605; De Augmentts, 1623; Novurn Organon, 1620. HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAY 1.11. world. If we sometimes find such expressions conformed to the ideas or, at any rate, the language of the age, - as in the instance of the antithesis vf I'Firt4t" and "Second Causes," referred to as if they were conceptions of the same kind, -yet in other cases we must recognise views not only in advance of his age, but eminently capable of instructing the present. His opinion of final causes', and his often quoted remark,-respecting their barrenness in a scientific sense and regarding them as not neglected, but 11 wrongly phtced,"-if properly attended to, would have anticipated and superseded volumes of modern discussion. While the observation that physical causes do not really withdraw us from the admission of Divine Providence, is a little vitiated in its free and full application, when: instead of regarding them as the very exponents of that Providence, he talks of the belief in it as the last resource, - If ad Deum et Providentiam. covfu- giant. His admired maxim, that a superficial ilosophy De Augmentis, lib. UL c. 4. P. 186. ed. 1624. Ibid. p. 189. FISAY 1. 11. 3 BACON. inclines riaen to atheism, a deeper to religion 1. ap-, plying directly to the very dubious physics and metaphysics prevalent in his age, has yet a practical truth in it for all ages, provided men are led to look for that religion solely in a region beyond that of positive science; not as mixed up with objects of sense and affections of matter, but as existing in the world of spirit. And when he pursues the subject further towards indicating the class of truths to which natural theology'and the use of reason alone are competent to conduct us, he draws some distinctions which are marvellously in advance of the speculations commonly current even in later times. That natural light and the contemplation of the works of creation may teach the existence, but by no means the nature, wid. still less the will, of the Deity 2 - that no such investigation can ever bring us to a knowledge of Divine mysteries; - that the senses perceive qatural truth, but are blind to divine, as the sun lightens the eaxth, but hides the staxs; " - that natural science is for the de- I De Augmentis, bk. 1. P. 9. 2 Ibid. bk. L PP. 7, 8. HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAY I 1V struction of atheism, not the construction of religion I; - that the light of nature may teach us the Divine power and wisdom, but not the Divine image or likeness -are propositions which stand the test of the highest advances of modern philosophy. In defining the respective provinces of reason and of faith, and urging the importance of keeping them separate, and observing that the neglect of such distinction leads only to the serious injury and perversion alike of philosophy hild of religion; -and again, that to derive religion from philosophy in to seek the living among the dead, to derive philosophy from religion to seek the dead among the living 2, - lie gives utterance to a lesson which has been reiterated in vain to successive races of Bible philosophers and Scripture cosmogonists, Bacon regards the study of the book of nature as "the true key to that of revelation,"' both as opening "the intellect to the true meaning of " Scripture from the general rules of reason and ]BACON- 63 #4 language," and as urging the necessity for inquiring into its contents. Theseare indeed wide and somewhat vague expressions, and such as might at the present* day be applied by some to an extent which, the author perhaps did not contemplate. But in some other points we still recognise a some lingering predominance of the theological ideas which cha- influences of dog. racterised the age. When, for example, from the matism. very just remark that false religions forbid the use of reason while Christianity encourages it 1, he carries out the use of reason to the explanatiov, of Divine mysteries, there appears a little inc onsistency with some of his former admirable distinctions; unless indeed we rest in the ambiguity of the sentence, and suppose the entire meaning to refer to what he immediately enlarges on-that all revelation is an accommodation of Divine things to our finite apprehensions. In one passage indeed Bacon appeart to carry out the principle of faith to a somewhat strange extreme, when he alleges that 11 the more irrational (absonum) and incredible any divine mystery is, the greater 0 De Augmentis, bk. lit. e. 2. p. 156. Ibid. bk. ix. p. 534. I I Ibid. bk. i. p. 51. I De Augmentis, bk. 1K. c. J. p. 529. 64 HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAY L M 11 the honour we do to God in believing it, and so 4K much the more noble is the victory of faith."' Again, admitting that truths of revelation stand entirely on the basis of that authority, andare thus 11authypostatse," he contends that reason is yet competent to deduce conclusions logically from them 2 -the very assumption which gave rise t,o most of the preposte rous dogmas of the scholastic theology. Rather as these truths are not conclusions of reason, so neither can they fairly be made premises for it. One of the most remarkable indications of prevalent influences may be not-iced in the instance of the inquiry - censured indeed by Bacon, if carried out in the spirit of fanciful speculation, but admitted if kept within sober and rational bounds ,-into the nature of angels and spirits, as also of demons, with whom are associated, by a singular analogy, not'only vices in morals, but poisons in physieS.3 In a more scientific point of view it is also I De Aug. lib. Ix. p. 527. In the earlier English version 11 On the Advancement," &c. these paradoxical expressions are omitted. 2 Ibid. P. 530. 3 Ibid. bk. Ill. p. 158. EIIIAY 1. 11.] BACON. curious to notice the question which Bacon dis- View of the system of cusses as an exemplification of his method-the the world. truth of the received Ptolemaic astronomy-distinctly putting it as a point to be inquired into, and mbiting the argument on the one side, as, -that the motion of the staxs from east to west is very rapid, in consequence of their distance from the earth ; that of the outer planets, Saturn and Jupiter, less so; that of the inferior. planets, still less; that of the atmosphere, though perceptible within the tropics~ very,little; and by induction, therefore, that of the carth absolutely nothing 1: while, on the other side, the inquiry is to be diligently pursued whether fliere are any equally good arguments in favour of the imaginary hypothesis of Copernicus beyond its simplicity and beauty, which he fully admits.' Bacon, indeed ~in his "Thema Coeli"), speaks of the fixity of the earth as that "which seemed to him the more true opinion," though he, in the same work 3, Nov. Org. lib. ii. 36, p. 207, ed. 1813. This case becomes the more interesting to state correctly since it wao misapprehended by Laplace, who represents Bacon as arguing erclo4sirely in favour of the Ptolemaic system. - Ezsai Mailos. sur les 1'rob. P. 170, ed. 1814. 1 Thema Coall, ix. p. 253. 66 HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAY 1. IL~ expressly admits the solar system as far as the two inner planets Venus and Mercury, yet, in the 11 Descriptio Globi Intellectualis," dwells on the difficulties with which he conceived the Copernican hypothesis, attended ; and especially expressed his wish for some system based on substantial physical grounds, which, doubtless, was not yet the case with the Copernican.' The direct argument of Gilbert in its favour (11 De Maguete," 1600), as well as the poetical recommendation of Milton, and, not least, the amusing paradoxes of Wilkins, tended to open men's minds to the consideration of so novel a theory in England, before the great movement towards the end'of the same century. Before the inductive philosophy was established, and consequently before the grander truths of universal order could have been thoroughly accepted in all their extent and consequences, it would be vain to seek for any enlarged philosophical views on the question of interruptions of the laws of nature. Bacon 2, when he maintains with so much truth that , miracles were never wrought to convinc( See Whewell's 11 Hist. of Ind. Sciences," 1. 386. De Aug. U. ill. cb. 3, p. 156. I Nov. Organ. fl. Aph. 29. ZMAT I. IT. I BACON. atheists," and assigns as the reason that God's ordi- Miracles. nary works are sufficient for that purpose, overlooks the more powerful reason that no miracle could be received at all without a previous belief in the Divine Omnipotence, even in a very positive and extended sense. When he adds that miracles were ft)r the conviction of the idolatrous and superstitious, lie perhaps approaches nearer to the admission of the adaptation of such evidence to the narrowness aiid ignorance of those to whom it ~ras addressed. In estimating his opinions on the subject of the supernatural, we must not omit to remark the caution which be lays down in another place respecting the strict scrutiny to be used in collecting recorded hi8tances of marvels, monstrous productions of iiature, and the like. 11 Above all," he adds, every relation must be considered suspicious which depends in any degree on religion, as the prodigies in Livy." I On the other side, we must notice his somewhat far-fetched homage to the miracles of Christ, as having conferred the highest glory on medicine 1, as I De Aug. tv. 2. ~M 68 HISTORICIL SKETCH. [ESSAY I. n. well as his more devout reflections on them in his Meditationes Sacrea." The inestimable value and importance of the one grand Baconian maxim, 11 Give unto faith the things which are of faith," and its great significance in relation to the modern advance in physical gener isation, has been commented on in former essays. It is to the full and complete realisation and appli cation of this broad principle that we may look with con6dence for removing a mass of objections and difficulties from philosophical sources which have embarramed and obscured Christianity, and have been often held f6rth as fatal to its cause. Such diffi culties, however, disappear when it it simply con sidered that, however forcibly urged in reference to matters d sense, properly subjects of reason, they a" inapplicable when the question is one of faith, and refers to truths of a totally different order. Bacon's We must not forget to mention that remarkable I-Confession of Faith." production Bacons 11 Confession of Faith," not pub lished till 1641, fifteen years after his death; a production which has excited the admiration of the more strict dogmatists, as exhibiting a remarkable ROSAY 1. Ir.] BACONTIN PHILOSOPHY. 69 testimony to the orthodox creed. We may remaxk In it, that besides a profession of belief in the crea~ tion as well as in the Incarnation, the true resurrecw tion, and visible ascension of Christ, he expressly declaxes that He showed Himself 11 a Lord of nature in His miracles." It is, however, material to remark that these declarationsare put forth as articles of faith," which we must fairly understand, in accordance with his own profound and most important distinction between faith and knowledge. As to the general tone, spirit, and character of General character the Baconian philosophy, some degree of misappre- of the Baconian hension very commonly prevails. By some it is philosophy. degraded into mere utilitarianism, aiming only at 1)ractical advance in the arts of life. By others, its . nductive" character, inthe narrow sense of the tvrm, as opposed to "deductive," has been insisted oil, but just in the same erroneous light as an (!Xclusively deductive character has been assigned 14) the Aristotelian system; whereas its founder 4,xl)ressly made induction of the most primary importance. The. Baconian method is essentially a 410111bination of both processes; and the material disfinction is, that whereas in the Aristotelian method 72 HISTORICAL SKETCH. tESSAY 1. It. independent observation, diligent and accurate col~ lection. of facts. Lingering So deeply had men's minds been impressed with influence of ancient the peculiaritie-, of the scholastic philosophy and its oystems. theories, so congenial to men's fancies, of imagmar occult, and mystic powers and properties in matter, that, even under the new system, it was long before inquirers could altogether divest themselves of such conceits; and even to the present day science has hardly perhaps effectually cleared itself of them to all apprehensions. At any rate, we trace numerous instances of such influence pervading at least the language of philosophical writers, if not rendering the conception of better views difficult and uncon genial. Pbilosopby The state of philosophy in the eaxlier part of the in the 17th century as seventeenth century, notwithstanding the greatmove- bearing on theoiogy. ment made by Bacon and Galileo, was by no means as yet such as to be capable of leading to enlarged views of the great idea of universal order in nature, even if it could have been considered at all proved in the then state of discovery. On the other hand, the spirit of technical metaphysics retained a strong hold on the conceptions, and guided the Rs1AY 1. rr.j THEOLOGICAL SPECULATIONS. 73 speculations of philosophers as well ag divines. Hence, while abstractions of a very recondite kind characterised the theological disquisitions of some of the keenest intellects of the age, and, in several cases, led to serious difficulties and objections with reference to the higher doctrines of revelation, there was little disposition to enter on any kind of fluestion as to the relations of that revelation to physical truth. Indications of the tendency of views, in any case, oil the one side, are often to be collected from writings which obtain repute on the other. Thus we may gain some notion of the character of scepticism at the period in question from what was (1011fessedly the standard treatise on the evidences of religion, that of Grotius "De Veritate" (1627), iii which it is remarkable that, in respect to miravitlous evidence, while the author dwells largely on testimony, authority, conformity to the Divine attrihtites, and other like topics, and combats a variety of'objections, he yet never makes the slightest alluPion to any influence of physical considerations as affecting the question; and the fact that his work othould have so long sustained its reputation as the 0 Hugo Grotius. 76 HISTORICAL SKETCH. [EssAy L arguing downwards to natural causes all thus link in one chain with the primary influence of presidin supreme intelligence.' The spirit and tendency of the whole Cartesian philosophy with reference to theology was suffi ciently marked and peculiar. Descartes totally re~ jected the study of final causes.' On the other, band, his proof of the existence of a Deity was of that abstract kind which consisted with his entire theory; it was the simple existence of the idea of God in the mind; the cause of which, he argues, can only be its reality; just as he made thought the only proof of our own existence. Descartes' Again, the philosophy of Descartes was throughout reception of revelation. preeminently characterised by asserting the unlimited supremacy of human reason, and the total rejection Descann, in laying down the primary laws of motion, says : - Atque ex hitc eidem immobilltate Del, regulm quEedam sive leges natures cognosel poasunt, qnse sunt causm secundari.T ac particulares I'diversorum m0tuUm quo$ in alligulle corporibus advertimus." He then proceeds to deduce some of the primary laws of motion and force and after giving the proof of one part of the theorem of collision of bodies, he continues, Is Demonstratur etlam pars alters, ex lmmutablII4 11 tate operationis Del, mundum eadem aftlone qua ollm. creavit continuo "jam conservantis. "- Principia Milos. p I!. 37. 1 2 PrIncipia PhIlosophim, pt. 1. 28. (1644.) T86AT 1. 11.3 I)ESCIRTES. 77 of external authority. Yet, notwithstanding the tuloption of this high standard in philosophy, he professes an entire acceptance of the mysteries of faith and the truth of revelation as matters not rognisable to reason; as is abundantly testified by a juLKsage towards the very commencement of the o4ystematic exposition of his principles; where he (limtinctly asserts that matters communicated by Divine revelation ought to be believed, though they may be beyond our comprehension, such as the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incaxnation, and generally, he adds, that both in the Divine nature and in creation there may be many things beyond our comprehension.' In deducing all physical action from the "immutability of the Deity" and thus making It. equally in its nature invariable, he yet expressly mlinits an except-ion with regard to 11 such mutations 1 11 Credenda esse omnla quee a Deo revelata. sunt quainvis captum nostrum excedant. . . . Ita si forte nobis Deus de Seipso vel. alils aliquid revelet quod naturales ingenii nostri vires excedant, qualia lain sunt mysteria Incarnationis. et Trinitatis, non recusabimus ilia credere quamvis non clare intelligamus. Nee ullo modo mirabimur inulta esse tuni in immensA ejus naturA, tum etiam In rebus ab to creatis, quaa eaptum nostrum excedant." - Cartesii Princip. Milus. p. 7. 78 HISTORICAL SKETCH. [ESSAX I. asare made in matter, by evident experience or Divine revelation." Yet in spite of these and the like professions,..~ Descartes, not without reason, from the mere fact of his opposition to the scholastic philosophy, lived under constant apprehension of persecution from the ecclesiastical. antl iorities; assailed on all sides by calumnies', and anathemas I be only escaped actually suffering from the hands of the sacerdotal functionaries by finding an asylum in the court of Queen Christina of Sweden, whore, as is well known, he ended his days a victim to the climate. Follower$ Of The broad profession of faith made by Descartes, Descartes. though supported by his disciples Malebranebe and De la Forge, was modified by a seasonable degree of .caution on the part of one of his most eminent followers, Rohault, whose 11 Physics " was long the text-book of the Cartesian doctrine, and who observes, it is unbecoming philosophers on all occasions I 11rincipia, pL IL 36. 2 In illustration of the kind of accusations which the polemical spirit of the time brought against the philosophy of Descartes, even among among Protestants, the reader may refer to Bp. Stillingileet's 14 Origines Sacrze," vol. ii. p. 417, ed. Oxf. 1797. EnAY I- 11-1 HOBBES. 79 11 to run to miracles and Divine power I thus affording at least an indication of the increasing discrimination of the age as to the proper character and limits of philosophical investigation. 

The Order of Nature

 

 

   

 

 


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