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CONCLUSION. 

GENERAL RELATIONS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH AND PHYSICAL TRUTH. 

Understood in its full extent, the grand idea of Cosmos, and the view of universal mind, at first enlarged upon, at once, on its positive side, subverts atheism, and on its negative, pantheism --"the poetry of atheism." [ F. Newman, 11 Theism," p. 26]. In its extension, it opens the door to faith ; in its restriction, it cuts off visionary speculations of reason on matters beyond its province; and if it exclude interruptions to physical order in the material universe, it is fully consistent with the admission of spiritual mysteries in the invisible world. 

Relations of Christianity to Physical Points Not Miraculous

The subject of miracles has been thus far dwelt upon as that in which, above all others, the claims of revelation seem to come into most immediate contact  with physical considerations and the great truth of the order of nature. IJ I I I I --77,1~ 77777-7777777 '777MEW 442 PHYSICAL TRUTH [CONCL, 'But. this topic, important as it is, is only branch of a wider question which axises when we sider that the spiritual disclosures of the Chris revelation are in so many ways represented as M as ln,~ .t or less related to the external world; when spirl and moraJ doctrines are at least expressed in ter derived from object,9 of sense, or the things of heavenly and invisible world represented under so outward connection with visible objects and physi events. Hence a few remarks on some of the prinei cases of this kind, where difficulty may have aris in the reception of Christian doctrines on phys' grounds not directly referring to miracles, will pr perly close the present discussion. Physical In general, no reflecting person who considers t language of Scripture. peculiar circumstances under which any part of t Bible was 'written, or.the objects for which it obviously designed, will hesitate to admit that on physical subjects the sacred writers' beyond questi held the accepted doctrines of their age. No thinki reader for a moment imagines that they professed I See 11 Unity of Worlds," Essay If. il. p. 322, 2nd ed. I CONCLUSION.] AND CHRISTIAN FAITH. 443 liad attained the slightest advance in Astronomy, in Geology, in Physics, or in Physiology, beyond their cotemporaxies. On these and the like topics, then, they of course simply used the current language, as they adopted the common belief of their day, and, even in religious applications, could only describe events, where they involved any reference to outward nature, in terms implying the ideas with which they and their hearers or readers were conversant. Indeed, even had it been otherwise, no other language could have been intelligible to those they addressed, and the representation must have failed in its object. When more precise and circumstantial descriptions rhysicai contradicor narratives occur, as in certain instances, especially tions 'in the Old in the Old Testament, the case may present peculiar Testament. features requiring more distinct consideration, especially if regarded as compared with, or supposed addressed to, the apprehensions of the present age. In the former Essays the most remarkable of Such cases was fully considered, the contradiction to physical fact in the Mosaic cosmogony, to which other instances, such as the Deluge,-as well as many less prominent, in the narrative of the Hebrew Scriptures, might be added, and to which the same general re- i , I Physical 4iffieukies in relation to Christianity. W -1-11r~-V.IF , -177 117"T~1 71 1 ~ 7 444 PHYSICAL TRUTH [CONCL marks would apply so obviously as to render paxticulax discussion of them needless. But in regard to these cases of physical diffi as affecting the Old Testament, a further ground of argument was resorted to, viz. the pendent basis on which Christianity stands, and, consequent irrelevancy of objections which might, valid against any part of the Judaical system records, and yet not affect the claims of the Gosp6, Nevertheless, it may still be urged that we hot taken a complete or comprehensive view of case. There may be, and in fact there are, merous other cases of physical statements w seem more closely and directly to affect some p in Christianity in which similar difficulties We must proceed to consider a few instances. The Fall. There have been some doctrinal views upheld great earnestness in the Christian Church fou upon a very literal adherence to Scriptural s ments of an apparently physical kind; as, for ample, those physiological effects so comm imagined to be connected with the doctrine of Fall," in virtue of which death is supposed o become for the first time inherent not only iii CONCLUSION.] AND CHRISTIAN FA.ITIr. 445 human constitution but in that of all inferior ani. inals; an assertion which the slightest knowledge of palaeontology at once disproves. Physical death is the necessary condition of animal existence in this world, as the slightest reflection raust show that immortality in the body in this earth would be simply a physical impossibility. The sentence of death pronounced.on Adam would surely still have been penal, even if he were already mortal. The highest privileges of the Gospel do not exempt men from bodily dissolution, nor has its spiritual regeneration any connection with relief from bodily infirmity, suffering, or labour. These evils must have occurred in natural life on Labour and the earth constituted as it is, or ever has been. Yet suffering. they are to a great extent, and may and will be hereafter to a fax greater, remedied and overcome by the use of the faculties and means with which man is gifted, and by science duly applied to physical agents. Among these we may notice as a pre-eminent instance the discovery of chloroform, which has practic~lly annulled the Mosaic denunciation on parturition; yet there have been found some bigots at once I ~1' I PHYSICAL TRUTIT [CONCL so inhuman and so senseless as to denounce invention and forbid its use because it does so. Sin and That the human race is by natural transmiss evlL actually subject to disease and death, is of co undeniably the fact, as is the case in various de with all other species of animals. Again,-as matter of fact,-that all men are naturally prone, evil is equally the teaching of all experience history as of Scripture. But the tenor of St. P argument-while he adopts the Mosaic narrative Adam's disobedience, and traces sin to that origin is clearly not to enforce any physical ideas, but bring his heaxers to acknowledge the condemnati of all men for their sins": and this with the sol object that they might seek deliverance in Christ Thus, without insisting on anything at variance i truths recognised by reason and science, faith advance, without dispaxagement or difficulty, to th spiritual doctrines of original sin and regenerati asserted in the Christian creeds. Origin of The descent of the whole human race from o man. primeval stock, so as to constitute only one nat I Rom. v. 12. 2 Rom. v. 14. CONCLUSION.] AND CHRISTIAN FAITH. 447 species, has been an opinion extensively maintained on physiological grounds, yet to which, on like scientific arguments, physiological and archaeological, by others, serious objections have been felt, and an opposite view maintained. Though there can be little doubt that the writers of the New Testament held the common belief of their countrymen on this point, as derived from the Mosaic writings, yet they nowhere lay any stress upon the assertion of it; nor would the spiritual and practical doctrines they found upon it be in the least invalidated even if the opinion of a diversity of race, so much advocated by some philosophers, should eventually be established. We find numerous references and allusions, more or less direct, in the New Testament to the physical statements and representations of the Old; such as to the Creation, the account of Adam and Eve, the Deluge, the Mosaic and prophetic miracles, and the like.' In general it may be supposed admitted that such references would be made by the Apostles and Evangelists, as Jews, in the literal acceptation of I As e.g. I Cor. x. 1, &c.; I Pet. iii. 21 ; 2 Pet. iii. 6,13, &c. Physical references to the Old Testament. I I 448 PHYSICAL TRUTH [CONCLUSI i their cotemporaries; yet at the same time we obse them always introduced and applied solely for the purposes of higher moral and religious instruction,never dwelt upon in themselves. Physical Throughout the New Testament, allusions to ex-~ allusions in the 'New ternal nature and the physical economy of the world Testament -its creation, or predicted destruction and renovai. tion, are of course made in descriptive langua and modes of expression accordant with the prevale ideas and belief, especially as derived from the Hebre Scriptures. But in these instances we may cleaxl regard the real object as referring to the doctrine 1 culcated, not the physical imagery in which it ma be conveyed. Various expressions of the sacred writers,-literal of a peculiar physical import, in accordance with t ideas of their age,-obviously cannot now be und stood in the same sense, or possess the same force., the existing state of knowledge. Thus, phrases I plying literally a local heaven above the solid fir ment, or a local hades beneath the earth,-an ase to the one, or a descent to the other, cannot now accepted as physical descriptions. Yet no reflecting inquirer at the present day s CONCLUSION. AND CHRISTIAN FAITH. poses that because better cosmological views have been attained, the substantial religious doctrines conveyed under those representations are at all impugned. No educated or thinking person supposes that the existence of antipodes, or the motion of the earth,or of the entire solar system,-or the. infinite extension of stellar worlds,-or any similar physical truths, can in any way really affect the spiritual mysteries proclaimed by the Apostles, whether relating to the person and office, the humiliation or glorification, of Christ, or to the condition, privileges, or hopes of His followers,-in whatever descriptive language or sensible imagery they may have been clothed and inculcated. do'not affect the Christlan doctrine. The announcement of a future life, and even Of D I S the manner and circumstances in which its introduction is predicted to take place, forming, as it does, so prominent a topic in the New Testament, are delivered in terms, no doubt directly derived from material objects and expressive of physical agency, which may reasonably be understood as a mode of representing unseen mysteries to human apprehension by sensible imagery, and in their literal and material G G escr p oa I of future stAte. Wholly unconnected with philo~ophy. I 450 PHYSICAL'TRUTH [CONCLUSIO sense, can no more be insisted on than the literal period of their occurrence, so undeniably assigned in the Apostolic writings as then close at hand. The reality represented belongs wholly to a spiritual ordei of thinga:-and though it might be argued that, even in a philosophical point of view, we know not how many or how vast are the changes which matter and life,-body and spirit,-tbe material and th moral world, -may be destined to undergo in the progress of countless ages,-yet any such conceptions must fall infinitely short of those elevated contem~ plations,-rather are of a totally different order fro any ideas of a future state to which Christiani points; - and which are wholly incomprehensible t human reason, and exclusively the embodiments revelation, and objects of faith. The representations of a future life are put for in the New Testament in a sense wholly differe from that of any philosophical speculations on immaterial or immortal principle existing in and in no way dependent on the question of rialism. or immaterialism. It is spoken of in I tualised language as "a mystery" I which conv y I I Cor, xv. 51. ig 'CONCLUSION.] 7 AND CHRISTIAN 'FAITH. 451 ideas cognisable to reason; and the whole doetri . ne, as delivered by the Apostle, is altogether alien from any philosophical views whatsoever, physical or me taphysical, and is wholly the creation of inspiration, the teaching of faith. I This doctrine is expressly made of the most fundamental importance by the Apostle2, although the precise nature of the event spoken of is not in the slightest degree hinted at. The metaphor of the seed sown and the plant springing up from it baH manifestly no analogywitb a material body and an immaterial soul. The corporeal resurrection of Christ, whose "flesh saw no corruption,"' is still less literally applicable to the remote future resurrection of a "spiritual body." In such representations here is no parallel in reason; they can be accepted solely as matters of faith and revelation, in the sense put on them by the Apostle. Such instances only show how entirely spiritual mysteries must stand on their own ground, and can be in no way amenable to any natural comparisons or material conceptions. They I See "Unity of Worlds," P. 309) 2nd ed. 2 ) Cor. xv. 14. 8 Acts il 31 452 N PHYSICAL TRUTH [CONCLUSION are matters necessarily unsatisfactory to curiosity, ty, unapproachable by reason, yet sufficient for fait and for practice. Materialism Again: with respect to spiritual influences, whethe and Imma terialism. in a more ordinary or more exalted form, and thos doctrines of Christianity which relate to them,-and are often understood as if necessarily assuming distinct spiri tual principle of existence in man,-i must be observed that any expressions of the Ne Testament writers which seem to imply such a distinc existence yet nowhere assert it in any precise or phy siological sense. All that is said is conveyed in form of representation referring to an order of thin totally distinct from those contemplated in any philo sophical. theories, and implying that distinct an spiritual character which is expressed by such phrase as a new birth, a new creation', and the lik derived wholly from the Divine gift; while at t same time it is not less clearly intimated that suo influence is to be judged of solely 'by its pradi fruits, as the only test of its reality. But all th practical results or operations are the same on John ill. 2; Gal. vi, 15, &e. COXCLUSI01q.] AND CHRISTIAN FAITH. 453 hypothesis as to the internal nature of man, and the reference to them is entirely independent of any question between the material and the immaterial theories of metaphysicians, which in no way affect any of the doctrines of Christianity,- the infusion of Divine grace 1, or the renewal of man in the image of God.2 So long as man is admitted to have the capacity for receiving, and the power of acting in accordance with, these Divine inspirations, it is wholly irrelevant whether his constitution be believed to consist of material atoms or of immaterial entities, or a combination of both. On either theory the operations of the mind will practically remain equally distinct from those of the body ~-and the spiritual nature and affections equally different from the carnal or animal nature and propensities of man. Nor can any such questions as to present existence in anyway affect the belief in a future life,- resting, as we have observed it does, entirely on the simple assertion * of inspired teaching, which is wholly irrespective of any distinctions of human reason or speculative theories. I I Cor. xii. 7. 2 C,,L Ill. 10. Now& ~- ~-- I I 1 111 1 1 11 R 11-1m, I I ~~- N 454 PHYSICAL TRUTH [CONCLUSION Temporal The belief, common to many nations, but an,`~ blessings and judg- essential point in the religion of the Jews,-that" ments. famines and pestilences, droughts and rains, fer tility and abundance, -and the like temporal and na~, tional events,-were judgments or blessings, brought about as express retributions, by direct divine inte - position, -though deprived of its religious importance by the essential principles and very nature of the, New dispensation', was yet doubtless sometimes al luded to by the Apostles;~but never in such a way as either to contravene the spiritual, future, and unseen nature. of the sanctions. held out by the Gospel, or to stand in any contradiction to the advance of modern knowledge, by whose light all such events are seen to be the results of immutable laws, and a part of the fixed order of the natural world, which constitutes the idea of Divine Providence. Not unconnected with the last topic are the confessedly obscure allusions made by St. Paul to a, power vested in the Apostles of punishing offenders. against the order of the Church by temporal infiic-'~ See Second Series of Essays, 11 Christianity without Judaism,' pp. 105, 109,152. CONCLUSION.] AND CHRISTIAN FAITH. 455 tions 1: but these (whatever they may mean) are on all hands admitted to have no application beyond the temporary circumstances of the case and the personal authority of the Apostle. It may here also be added (in relation to a topic Witchcraft. before adverted to) there can be little doubt that the Apostles partook in the belief of their age in the reality of witchcraft, though nowhere expressing it otherwise than by denouucing the practice as a sin which it must be to any one believing in it. Again, the doctrine of the Divine counsels-the Moral order. providential government of the world,-the nature and destinies of man, are topics which may remotely be found connected with science in respect to those great inductive laws which (as we before observed) axe now beginnin to be investigated as regulating .9 the course of human events, and the conditions of social existence, enabling us to trace plan and order even in the moral world; but these deductions cannot really impugn the truths of the spiritual world. Philosophy teaches us that 11 we live and move and have our being " according to certain deter- As, e..q. 1 Cor. xi. 30 ; v. 5. G G 4 I------ - - "It- -~ , ~ I I Gal. v. 20. N Ollie 456 CONCLUSION. minate laws: Revelation tells us that we do so CC i God." - Reason and science point out the natural and, moral order of the world and its invariable la s,, Faith invests them with a new character as thq( 11~ manifestations of Divine government and providence. Metaphysical principles may lead to the theory of moral necessity on the one hand, or of free agency on the other. The Gospel, without entering on the, question at all, at once inculcates moral obligations as the results of faith, and refers everything Divine grace. General conclusion. Recurrence to faith. In the foregoing survey of the relations of Chris-~ tianity to the physical order of things, and especiall to miracles, in the form which any view of tha question necessarily takes in the present day, it haA been observed that the point to which opinion seems from various quarters to be converging, both am" enlightened believers and thinking and inquirin minds, even of very different schools, is to rece from the precise and formal arguments once so mu insisted on, but now seen to involve so many ph CONCLUSION. 457 sical difficulties, and to recur to'more purely spiritual considerations and the ground of faitk in the reception of revelation;-a view which so eminently harmonises with its nature as a disclosure of spiritual mysteries of the unseen world. If in what has preceded no reference has been made to such high mysteries as the Trinity, the union of the Divine and Human natures in Christ, the Atonement by His death-the influence of the Holy Spirit-or Sacramental grace,-it is because these and the like tenets of the Church do not properly fall under the present discussion -since though in some few points touching upon material things -on the human existence and death of Christ, and on the nature of man,-yet they involve no consideration of a physical kind infringing on the visible order of the natural world; and thus cannot be open to any difficulties of the kind here contemplated: -in fact all the objections which have been raised against them are of a metaphysical, moral, or philological nature. But if, in other cases, the highest doctrines are essentially connected with the narrative of miracles, we have seen that the most earnest believers con- No diffi. culty in spiritual mysteries from physical truth. I i i 1~ il i ---- .... I------ Greater miracles spiritualised in the New Testament. 

458 CONCLUSION. template the miracle by the light of the doct and both solely with the eye of faith; and th when, as in some of the chief articles of the Ch' tian formularies the invisible world seems to brought into immediate connection with the visi -the region of faith with that of sense,-w heavenly mysteries are represented as involved earthly marvels,-the spirit of faith obviates the ficulties of reason by claiming them to its 0 province and prerogative. And if we turn to the New Testament, and ackno ledge in its later writings, especially those of St. P the fullest development of Apostolic Christianity, there find, in a very remarkable manner, that reference is made to any of the Gospel rnirac' I J except only those specially connected with the sonal office and nature of Christ; and even these never insisted on in their physical details, but so in their spiritual and doctrinal application. Thus, the resurrection of Christ is emphati dwelt upon, not in its physical letter, but in its d trinal spirit'; not as a physiological phenome but as the corner-stone of Christian faith and h I Rom. iv. 25 CONCLUSION. 

459 the type of spiritual life here and the assurance of eternal life hereafter.' So, in like manner, the transcendent mysteries of the Incarnation and the Ascension axe never alluded to at all by the Apostles in a historical or material sense, but only so far as they are involved in points of 8piritual doctrine, and as objects of faith; as connected with the Divine manifestation of 11 the Word made flesh," 2 "yet without sin,113-with the in8crutable work of redemption on earth4 and the unseen intercession in heaven, -with the invi8ible dispensations of the gifts of grace from above', and with the hidden things of the future 7, which 11 eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered the heart of inan," -with the predicted return of Christ to Judge the world %-and the eternal tri amph of His heavenly kingdom.9 And in this spiritualised sense has the Christian in the Church. Church in all ages acknowledged these Divine mys- teries and miracles, -not of sight, but of faith,"- not I Rom. A. 4; Col: M. 1, 2. Heb. iv. 15. 4 Phil. ii. 6. 1 Cor. ii. 9. 2 John 1. 14 ; Gal. iv. 4. 5 Rom. vill. 34. 1 Eph. iv. 8. 8 Acts ii. 11. 9 1 Cor. xv. 24. 

460 CONCLUSION. expounded by science, but delivered in traditional. mularies,- celebrated in festivals and solemniti by sacred rites and symbols,- embodied in the cr tions of axt,- and proclaimed by choral harmonie -through all which the spirit of faith adores great mystery of godliness - manifested in t flesh-- justified in the spirit - seen of angels preached unto the Gentiles -believed on in t world --received up into glory." I 1 2 Tim. Hi. 16. I I APPENDIX.  

The Order of Nature

 

 

   

 

 


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