The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Science and the Bible
Science and the Bible.
An important pamphlet—important both on account of the subject with which it deals and the source from which it emanates—has for some months past been before the Australian public in the shape of a lecture by Dr. Perry, Bishop of Melbourne, on Science and the Bible. We have heard this episcopal effort well spoken of by many, and eulogised by not a few, as a masterly defence of the popular notion as to the origin and authority of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures which expresses itself in the doctrine that certain men were, at divers times and in divers places, specially or, in plain words, super-naturally qualified to produce documents, which were destined to form a duly authenticated collection of sacred writings, and be at the service of mankind, to the end of time, as their sole infallible and therefore unerring standard of faith and doctrine. We perceive, too, that the newspapers, in their notices of Dr. Perry's lecture, have complacently piped to the same tune; extolling it not only as an unanswerable vindication of the popular belief in the Bible, but also as a masterpiece of severe page 62 logic from which the doughtiest seeptic might well shrink with fear and trembling. To ourselves we must say that this flattering estimate of Dr. Perry's lecture appears anything but just. We have given it our careful attention; but the only conclusion, after a close and candid scrutiny of its contents, we can come to is, that a more milk-and-watery, a more illogical, a more disingenuous defence of the dogma of biblical inspiration and infallibility was never sent to a printing office. The reasoning throughout is singularly weak and inconclusive, and at times strikingly puerile. Fallacy follows fallacy, and subterfuge subterfuge; while the boldness of the Bishop's assumptions is only equalled by his dexterity in evading the points upon which he and those who differ from him are really at issue. There is a fair sprinkling of cant, which, however, we might have passed over, but for the offensive manner in which it is hurled at the heads of eminent thinkers who will shine as stars in the intellectual firmament when every living bishop—Drs. Temple and Colenso alone, perhaps, excepted—will be comfortably housed in oblivion. In a word, let us say that this famous prelatical disquisition on Science and the Bible, of which so much has been eulogistically said and written, is, in our opinion the puniest Vox et præterea nihil that has been uttered, or is likely to be uttered, for some time.
We are willing, indeed, to confess that from our first glances at his lecture, we were tempted to expect better things from the Bishop. His candour, on entering the theological arena, is as refreshing as it was unexpected : a candour couched in such sensible avowals as that "a man is not to be regarded as a disbeliever of the Bible because he is a votary of Science," and that "when our object is to ascertain what Science says upon a particular point we must listen only to its voice" and that "in the investigation of truth we must always use our independent judgment," and that "what we can judge for ourselves, we ought not to accept on the authority of others." Alighting, as we did, on these and some other utterances pitched in the same key, it naturally occurred to us that we might be on the threshold of an inquiry, in the conduct of which the cramped and supercilious attitude of mind, unfortunately so common among ecclesiastics, was for once to be eschewed. Another glance or two, and never was expectation more suddenly demolished. For the Bishop, it seems, is, in the face of these brave confessions, unable "to entertain the idea of Science contradicting the Bible;" he has made up his mind "that any disagreement between them is impossible;" he is quite sure "that all questions relating to Science will eventually be settled without discredit to the Bible;" and earnestly counsels the humble believer, when the discrepancy between them becomes unusually glaring, "to accept it as a trial of his faith and patiently wait." Now, what is the gist of all this? Simply page 63 that Bishop Perry's logical faculty is, in common with that of the vast majority of professional divines, so dwarfed and enfeebled by the theological training to which it has been submitted, as to invalidate its free and independent action on most fields of intellectual research. "It is mere hypocrisy," remarks F. W. Newman, and we quite agree with him, "to defer to a clergyman's authority in any theological question of first-rate importance." Why? For the reason that his head is full of certain foregone conclusions, which, on the assumption that they are heaven-descended and therefore unassailable truths, must be scornfully snatched from such tests as the natural reason and conscience of man may propose to apply to them, and be resolutely defended to the death. So with Dr. Perry. He believes that the Bible is an inspired book, and that, being inspired, it is absolutely free from errors of any kind. The Bible, he admits, was not intended by its Divine Author to teach science; yet he unhesitatingly avows that whatever the Bible says on any point of science must be true, because God, by whose Inspiration all scripture is given, cannot possibly lie. This, then, is the Bishop's assumption; the assumption—to use his own words—"that any disagreement between Science and the Bible is impossible;" but who does not see that to go to work in this fashion, is not only to beg the question at issue, but also to render any inquiry as to whether such disagreement is or is not the fact, a palpable waste of time. If any discrepancy between the teachings of Science and those of the Bible is an a priori impossibility, surely Dr. Perry might have saved himself the trouble of defending the proposition, a posteriori, with thirty-two octavo pages of solid long primer. No wonder that the obtuseness of the clerical mind is rapidly passing with us into a proverb!
From this major assumption anent the Bible as a whole, the Bishop readily slides into a number of minor ones relating to its doctrinal contents. "I have no more doubt" he says, "of the diurnal and annual motions of the earth, or of the monthly revolution of the moon, or of the leading facts of geology, than I have of the birth, life and death, the resurrection and ascension, of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Let the reader note the address, nay, the unctuosity which underlies this statement. First, there is the assumption that Jesus actually left his grave, after having been placed there as a corpse, and was carried into the skies, and, accompanying it, a gracious intimation on the Bishop's part, that theologians and men of science should pay court to what may be considered the ascertained truths of their respective departments of investigation, and be the best of friends for the future. As for the assumption, Dr. Perry can hardly be ignorant of the fact that the "resurrection and ascension" of Jesus, and some other Christian dogmas of the same class, are in the present day page 64 regarded, by nine out of every ten scientific men, either as open questions about which the evidence is conflicting, or as incredible myths for the historic validity of which the proffered evidence is ridiculously insufficient. Let Dr. Perry hug them, if he will, to his heart's content; but not attempt to obtain popular credence for these dogmas—at least, if he would have his judgment carry weight with it—by adroitly classing them with such well-established truths of science as the diurnal and annual movements of the earth, and with which every schoolboy is expected to be familiar. As for the men of science, our impression is that they will meet the Bishop's proposal in much the same spirit as Æsop's foxes met that of their wily comrade, who, on losing his tail by some mishap, endeavoured to convince his vulpine brethren, that, for the sake of uniformity, they should seek surgical aid, and relinquish their brushes all round. Doubtless his lordship of Melbourne will remember the answer which a 'cute renard, speaking on behalf of the assembled company of foxes, returned on that memorable occasion; and we need not, therefore, quote it. It is an undoubted misfortune that a man should be disqualified—no matter by what set of influences—for the task of free and fearless, howbeit calm and reverent, inquiry into the deepest problems of human thought; but surely he is not justified thereby in attempting to place others in the same unwholesome fix.
We are not going to trudge after Dr. Perry, noticing all the points and phrases of his argument—if argument it may be called—in support of the thesis, that Science and the Bible are not and cannot possibly be at variance. Suffice it to say that he defends it by the formal enunciation of four, elaborately manipulated propositions, respecting which it will be necessary to say a word or two.
Proposition the first: "That much of what is called Science, is nothing else but arbitrary and unphilosophical hypothesis." Granted. What could be more obvious? The reaches of the human mind, in its first attempts at deciphering and classifying the phenomena of the universe, are necessarily tentative and more or less misleading. Ages may, and in fact, do elapse before the materials required for the building up of a given system of knowledge are brought together by the assiduity of successive workers, and a true scientific generalisation becomes possible. Name what science you will,—chemistry, physiology, astronomy, geology,—and we can at once revert to a time when what are now regarded as its leading truths, were but dimly apprehended by the keenest observers, and when "arbitrary and unphilosophical" hypotheses were resorted to, one after another, as the sole available condition on which Nature might be tempted to yield up her secrets. Granted, then, to the Bishop's first proposition, we say. But what has this fact—the fact that more and more light dawns upon the world as it grows older and older—to do with the page 65 agreement or disagreement of the teachings of Science as a whole, with the teachings of the Bible as a whole? Just this: that the Science of to-day, waxing bolder and more inquisitive than ever, has opened up questions relating to the Origin and Nature of Man, which are confessedly linked with theories and speculations, which, as time rolls on, will have to be revised or abandoned. No scientific man of eminence would think of pledging himself to the theory of Darwin as to the "Origin of Species" in all its details, or to that of the author of the "Vestiges," or to Professor Huxley's doctrine of "Protoplasm." That the researches of these eminent men clearly point to truths, which, however dimly seen at present, will eventually brighten forth, and revolutionise conceptions of the Creative Energy that are now deeply fixed in the popular mind, can hardly be doubted; it is, however, just as certain, that, as this consummation works itself out, the theories we have noticed will fling off one error after another, until cavillers like Dr. Perry will, in their nibbling search for objections, be left absolutely without pabulum, and compelled to surrender another story of the "structure in which the Hebrew and early Christian imagination found room and time for everything, earthly, devilish, and Divine." If the Bishop really wished to test the question as to the agreement or disagreement of Science with Scripture, why did he pass by the sciences of astronomy and geology,—not to mention others—where the discrepancy is glaring and insurmountable, and confine himself to speculations that are known to be anything but flawless? To quote Mr. Martineau, the true aspect of this Bible-and-Science controversy undoubtedly is, that the "Scriptures, in the presence of the Baconian logic, have merely encountered the inevitable fate of any inflexible litera scripta existing side by side with ever widening deductions . . . . . The series of questions on which the conflict has been renewed in modern times between the closed Word and the opening Works of God is as long as the chain of inductive sciences themselves; and the result has been invariable,—the patience of nature overcoming the authoritative plea of miracle. Copernicus, in spite of the hierarchy, has cried with more effect than Joshua, 'Sun stand still!' Ships are daily chartered to those Antipodes which Lactantius declared to be impossible, and Augustine unscriptural, and Boniface of Metz, beyond the latitude of salvation. Witchcraft, so long preserved by the Mosaic Law among our list of crimes, has disappeared from every European code; and demoniacal possession in mania and epilepsy, though in the Gospels giving form to the miracles and evidence to the Messiaship of Christ, has been unable to hold its ground against the exorcism of the College of Physicians. The common parentage of the human race, already rendered distasteful by Prichard's suggested probability of a black Adam and Eve, has become an open question with the advance of ethnology, notwithstanding the dependence upon it of the whole scheme of page 66 ecclesiastic theology. The Tower of Babel faded into a myth as the affinity of languages was better understood. Egypt, so long measured by the patriarchal chronology, and cowed by the song of Moses and Miriam, has at last taken strange revenge upon her fugitives, by discrediting their traditions, and exposing the proofs of her dynastics and arts beyond the verge of their Flood, nay, prior to their Eden. The terrestial cosmogony of Genesis, in spite of all the clamps and holdfasts of a perverted exegesis, has long been knocked to pieces by the geologic hammer. And now it would seem doubtful whether, even with regard to the specific types of organised beings, the idea of sudden creation may not have to be altogether relinquished in favour of a principle of gradual modification. . . . . Everything has turned out grander in the reality than in the preconception: the heavens that open to the eye of a Herschel, the geologic time whose measures direct the calculations of a Lyell, the chain of living existence whose links are in the mind of a Hooker, Agassiz, or Darwin, infinitely transcend the universe of Psalmist's Song and Apocalyptic Vision. However obstinate the battle may seem to be on each of these particular points, as it arises, the combatants again and again fight out a peace at last:—why, indeed, should the theologian object to find the scene of Divine Agency larger, older, more teeming with life, than he had thought? But all these collisions have a significance far deeper than the special topic of each occasion. They are signs of a more fundamental conflict, whose essence remains when they are set at rest;—of a real, ultimate, irreducible difference, easily mistaken for contradiction, between the whole scientific and the whole religious mode of approaching and viewing the external world."
We invite Dr. Perry's attention to this eloquent account—would that he might "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" it—of what Science, notwithstanding the "arbitrary and unphilosophical hypothesis" it is often "nothing else than," has ultimately accomplished in the way of purifying and elevating the religious system of which his lordship is so distinguished a representative. For the rest, is he quite sure that much that is still called Revelation is anything else than unmistakeable error, which the same glorious science will eventually bury out of sight and mind?
Proposition the second: "Science, although it sometimes has, for a while, appeared to contradict, and, in many instances, has necessitated modifications of the received text and interpretation, yet it has always borne not only negative, but upon every question which has been thoroughly investigated, positive testimony to the truth of the Bible." In proffering this statement, Dr. Perry places himself in tolerably good company. For the late Professor Whewell, in his Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, speaks, in much the same tone, of the necessity of bringing forward new interpretations of Scripture, to meet the discoveries page 67 of Science. "When," he asks, "should old interpretations be given up; what is the proper season for a religious and enlightened commentator to make a change in the current interpretation of sacred Scripture? At what period ought the established exposition of a passage to be given up, and a new mode of understanding the passage, such as it is, or seems to be, required by new discoveries respecting the laws of nature, accepted in its place?" But, divesting these statements of their rhetoric, what do they really mean? When Dr. Perry affirms that science "has necessitated modifications of the received text and interpretation" of the Bible, and Dr. Whewell talks of the "proper season for a religious and enlightened commentator to make a change in the current interpretation" of the Bible, it is difficult to acquit either the Bishop or the Professor of deliberately sanctioning the mischievous principle that theologians and others may bend the simple and obvious meanings of the biblical writers to express what meanings they please, in order to preserve a quasi agreement between Scripture and the discoveries of Science. To what extent, and to what damage to the cause of religion and of our grand old Bible, ecclesiastics have carried this Jesuitical principle into practice, we need not here discuss. An instance or two, out of an available score or scores, will suffice. Time was, for example, when the greatest philosopers believed that sun, moon and stars were the mere servitors of our little earth, which they regarded as the centre of the universe. This doctrine, or one like it, commended itself to the minds of the biblical writers, and gives shape to their geographical and astronomical allusions as often as they occur. When, therefore, Copernicus started his counter theory, and Galileo and Kepler rendered it formidable by their demonstrations, the Church was right in declaring that Scripture was dead against these daring speculations. Yet, in spite of her ugly roar, the old and scriptural conception of the universe gradually fell through, leaving the new to take its place, and the Church to arrange matters as best she might. And what was her plan? What but to come the "religious and enlightened commentator," and maintain that Scripture instead of being opposed to, was really in accordance with, the new doctrine, and that Science, in displacing the geocentric theory by the heliocentric, had thrown no more light on the subject than was furnished by the Pentateuch or the Book of Job. The next roar of the Church was directed against those who dared to suggest that the earth might be somewhat older than she was registered in the ecclesiastical chronology, and that six thousand years, as geology has since indisputably proved, were as nothing in comparison with the immense period which had elapsed since the "earth was without form and void." But the Church was again equal to the emergency, and resorting to another "modification of the received interpretation," declared that the page 68 six creation-days referred to in Genesis, were not meant by the writer to signify common or literal days of twenty-four hours each, but immense stretches of time such as the geologist cannot do without; whereas "the manifest entire tenor"—to quote from Powell's Christianity without Judaism—"of the narrative in the first chapter of Genesis can only convey the idea of one grand creative act, of a common and simultaneous origin of the whole material world terrestial and celestial, together with all its parts and appendages, as it now stands, accomplished in obedience to the Divine fiat, in a certain order, and by certain stages, in six equal successive periods, expressly designated as day and night, measured and determined by an evening and a morning, and necessarily (from the very nature and object of the whole representation) of the same length as the succeeding seventh natural day on which a peculiar blessing was pronounced." On the other hand, "the formation of the variously dispersed beds of diversified materials did not occur at one time, or even by any successive universal simultaneous acts, but by the gradual and local operation of the varied physical agencies, accompanied by corresponding series of changes in the forms and species of organised beings tenanting the earth and the water, each partially continuing during the rise and increase of the next; some more persistent, others dying out, as new forms were introduced, and this in a continuous succession from the earliest epochs, when none but forms now extinct prevailed, down to a time when those now existing, began to hold a joint dominion; while the period which is characterised as the most recent reaches to an infinitely higher antiquity than any contemplated by history or fable." So much, then, for what the truths of geology unequivocally prove, as opposed to what the Hebrew writer in his simplicity affirms; but which the modern orthodox divine, having a consecrated theory to serve, yet driven by Science into admissions which appear to falsify it, feels himself at liberty, nay, bound, to twist and colour, so as to make it mean anything or nothing. Theologians may, for all we care, take credit for their ingenuity in this matter; but what of their honesty? their straight-forwardness as men? their sense? "Well did Mr. Huxley observe at the late meeting of the British Association, that "theologians hang on to certain dogmas or doctrines till their fingers are burnt, and then, letting go, say it is of no importance, or was not meant in the sense they have been contending for." Good! Who but this eminent Professor could have picked out the eye of Bishop Perry's second proposition so?
Proposition the third : "There is no reasonable cause for us to doubt that all recent discoveries, and the speculations to which they have led, will likewise issue in the confirmation of the truth and inspiration of the Bible." No reasonable cause to doubt, etc. Of course not! Why should there be? Theologians have page 69 only to stick to their false and dishonourable plan of falsifying the real and obvious meanings of the biblical writers, by squaring them down to any pattern they please, in order to make the task of reconciling scripture with science one of the easiest imaginable. It is but right, however, that they should know that their procedure in this matter is the veriest laughing-stock to the thoughtful as it will in time be universally treated with the contempt it deserves. The "recent discoveries" alluded to by Dr. Perry, in his third proposition, are those which have been brought to bear by Hooker, Wallace, Darwin and Huxley on the origin and antiquity of the human race; and we venture to affirm that should Science succeed in showing by incontestable evidence, that the first human beings were barely an advance, mentally and physically, on the anthropoid apes, Dr. Perry and theologians of his order would at once make the discovery that the fact was strictly accordant with Scripture. The Jesuits!
Proposition the fourth: "The evidence which we have the whole Bible being inspired of God, and therefore substantially true, is so conclusive, that we cannot conceive of any facts discovered by Science, or any theories grounded upon such facts, being able to invalidate it" Rubbish! The evidence for the Inspiration of the Bible, as popularly held, so far from being conclusive, is glaringly, irreparably defective. It is, in fact, worthless. But let that pass. The Bishop, is seems, is unable to conceive of any scientific discovery which might militate against the essential harmony, as he considers it, of Science and the Bible; this being his way of intimating that every scientific discovery, as it turns up, shall be squared, by hook or by crook, with a supposed infallible Revelation. Really we have no patience with his lordship. It is too bad of him.
Such, then, are the four propositions which Dr. Perry advances in support of the thesis that Science and the Bible are essentially and indefeasibly consistent, and which, with an audacity that fairly staggers us, he thus propounds:
"What I now want to impress on your minds is, that neither the science of history nor that of language, neither the investigation of the archæologist nor that of the geographical explorer, neither natural history nor natural philosophy, has convicted one of the sacred writers of any actual mistake. In the Bible there is found no such fabulous animal as the phoenix, referred to in the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians; no such absurd reasoning as that of Plato for the immortality of the soul, no such contrariety with any trustworthy historian as Xenophon's Cyropedia exhibits to the narrative of Herodotus."
We doubt if a feebler or a falser utterance than this was ever worded. In the Bible there is found no such fabulous animal as the phoenix. Untrue. Let Dr. Perry turn to the Book Job (xxix 18), and he will find an indubitable reference to this imaginary bird; also a similar reference (iii. 8) to a celestial dragon which produced eclipses—for such was the current page 70 superstition—by occasionally swallowing the Sun and Moon. Again : In the Bible there is found no such absurd reasoning as that of Plato for the immortality of the soul. Let Dr. Perry take his Bible and turn to the well-known rhapsodical argument (L Cor. xv.) on this subject, which, however conclusive as to the intensity of Paul's belief in a risen and glorified Christ, and in a future state of existence as an inference from that belief, is incomparably inferior, as a piece of reasoning, to the Platonic argument for the immortality of the soul as set forth in the Phædon or the Apology; nor would we lose the opportunity of reminding his lordship of the now generally conceded fact that the Book of Ecclesiastes was actually composed in defence of the opposite and materialistic doctrine which pronounces future life an unwarrantable whim of the religious fancy. Once more : In the Bible there is no such contrariety with any trustworthy historian as Xenophon's Cyropedia exhibits to the narrative of Herodotus. We affirm, in reply, that such contrarieties are innumerable, and, more than this, that the discrepancies of statement between the authors named are matched and more than matched by the conflicting narratives of Kings and Chronicles, by the conflicting genealogical tables of Matthew and Luke, to say nothing of a host of minor instances which might be rapidly named. As for Dr. Perry's assertion "that neither the science of history nor that of language, neither the investigation of the archæologist nor that of the geographical explorer, neither natural history nor natural philosophy, has convicted one of the sacred writers of an actual mistake,"—it exhibits, as we have said, an astounding audacity which nothing but the crassest ignorance or the most lamblike docility could save from an indignant disclaimer. Has, then, neither science nor history anything to say in disproof of the creation of the world in six clays? of the descent of mankind from a single and in all respects perfect human pair, who were beguiled of their innocence by a devil-possessed serpent? of the cohabiting of the sons of God (Gen. vi. 1) with the daughters of men, or of the giants and mighty heroes (Gen. vi. 4) who were the fruit of this humano-celestial connection? of the longevity of the Patriarchs? of a flood which, in the time of Noah, overspread the earth, covering the tops of the highest mountains, and destroying all vestiges of human and animal life but the members of Noah's family and the creatures he took with him into the ark? or again, of the confusion of tongues and consequent dispersion of peoples, with which the attempt of Noah's descendants to build a heaven-reaching tower was miraculously foiled? Is there any historical or scientific, warranty for the fact that the Nile, at the command of Moses, was turned into blood? that a stick, at the prayer of Aaron, was converted into a savage reptile? that the calamities which fell, one after another, at the command of Moses, upon the people of Egypt, page 71 were anything but purely natural phenomena which the Biblical account has grossly exaggerated? or that a reach of the ocean was divided by a clear passageway for the accommodation of a host of fugitive Jews, who were then conducted, under the special guidance of the Deity, to the borders of their "Promised Land," the main river of which, on feeling the touch of priestly feet (Joshua iii. 17) instantly followed the example of the Red Sea, and the main city of which—a strongly fortified city—was in a moment reduced, by the blowing of some trumpets, (Joshua vi. 20) to a heap of rubbish? Are we to throw reason, probability, and science itself to the winds, and make a show of believing that the sun stood still at the request of a blood-thirsty soldier, or that the same luminary receded ten degrees along the ecliptic (2 Kings xx. 9) to satisfy a weak-minded monarch that his illness would not be a fatal one? Are we to swallow without protest such outrageous absurdities as that an ass carried on a conversation with his rider? or that the Hebrew Hercules after killing a small army with the jawbone of the same quadruped, obtained a supply of fresh water from its interior reservoirs? or that a corpse, on being dropped into a grave where a prophet had been interred (2 Kings xiii. 21) immediately started into life? or that three men went into a fiercely-heated furnace and, after a considerable stay there, came out uninjured? or that a man spent three days and three nights in the bowels of a sea-monster, and was then vomited, handy to some shore, in statu quo? or that five thousand people were fed and filled from a stock of food that was about sufficient for an ordinary family, and that the quantity left was vastly in excess of the orignal stock? or that people suffering from acute nervous disorders were possessed with devils which could be transferred from the bodies of human beings to the bodies of pigs? But enough of this. Dr. Perry affirms that science has not convicted one of the biblical writers of an actual mistake. Astonished at his boldness, we tell him, in reply, that while actual mistakes in the Bible—mistakes as to matters of fact, of history, and of science—are, at least, as numerous as its chapters, the whole tenor of the Book is irreconcilably opposed to those conceptions of unswerving law and order with which our ideas of God, and the Universe as the vestment wherewith he clothes himself, are inseparably linked. In reading Herodotus or Livy, we have no difficulty in discriminating what is likely to be true from what, as being tinged with the miraculous, is certain to be more or less adulterated with error. In reading the Koran or the Zenda Vesta we unhesitatingly fall back upon, and make use of, the same principle. Why, then, in reading our own sacred literature, should we contend for the truth of narratives which, both on historical and scientific grounds, are every bit as incredible as any that may be culled from the histories of Greece and Rome?page 72
As for a scientific theory of Nature, the author of Job, alone among the biblical writers, attempts to propound one: with what result? "A severe monotheism," remarks Dr. Davidson, "shuts up man within the continual thought of his powerlessness, excluding metaphysical speculation, and consequently all approach to a refined theology. God is presented in this poem as the Creator and universal Agent animating all beings with his breath and producing at once all the phenomena of nature. Angels form his court arround him, pure and holy; among whom, however, an accuser sometimes appears. Semitic meteorology is conditioned and determined by the same rigid monotheism. The clouds and space above them are the habitation and special domain of God, who governs everything thence. There are the reservoirs; his arsenals, pavilions. Thence he fetches storms, making them his messengers in dealing out retribution. Thunder is always viewed as a theophany, marking the descent of God to earth. The noise of it is his voice. Lightning is his light; and the electric flame the arrows hurled from his hand. In all this there is no trace of the great idea expressed by laws of nature—the basis of modern philosophy." We call attention to these remarks, as they very closely bear upon the point at issue between those who, while admitting the surpassing worth of the Bible, as a collection of soul-stirring literature handed down to us from ancient times, can see no reason for exempting it from the application of principles of interpretation which, in the case of similar literary works, are always employed for the winnowing of the wheat of truth from the chaff of error, and those who, on the assumption that the Bible is literally the "Word of God," and therefore faultlessly pure and true, recoil, with something like a shock, from the notion, that there are errors of any kind to be detected. For as the Bible is a collection of writings, extending, chronologically speaking, over more than a thousand years, another two thousand years having elapsed since the composition of the latest of them, how, in the name of common sense, should we expect to find an agreement between such scientific information as belonged to Moses, or Solomon, or Paul, and that at the disposal of the British Association or the Royal Society? The proposition is simply monstrous. It is like saying that the lapse of three thousand years has taught us nothing; and that all the great Apostles of Science, having lived to no purpose, might, instead of distracting their poor heads as they did, have comfortably buried them in their nightcaps! A proverb says, that "an ounce of mother-wit is worth a pound of Clergy;" or a ton of the article—which?
In bringing our remarks to a close, it may not be out of place—following Dr. Perry's example—to offer a word or two of advice for the benefit of such as they may concern. His lordship affectionately counsels the "anxious inquirer" whose faith has been shaken or disturbed by the sceptical tendencies of modern page 73 thought to "acquaint himself with the evidences, external and internal, for the truth and inspiration of the Bible;" to read Birks (who's Birks?), Bishop M'llvaine, (another nobody), Whately, and some other writers on the one side of the question, whose opinions are generally counted unto them as nothing or less than nothing; to "read constantly, day by day, the Bible itself," and, by so doing to arm himself "against all the wiles of the devil," i.e., the advancing strides of modern religious thought; and, finally, to crush the rising doubt, or, if unusually formidable, to regard it as "intended to try his faith." For ourselves, we counsel the anxious inquirer to reject this advice as an attack on the integrity of his mind and conscience. We counsel him to love and revere Truth in itself as infinitely grander than the purest doctrinal phase of truth, and to remember that a professed opinion, which reason and the conscience belie, and is held to merely in deference to the social or theological fashion of the day, is a black—perhaps, as Jesus teaches, an unpardonable—offence in the sight of God. We counsel him, in a word, to trust his own soul, and to treat the man—were he a thousand bishops rolled into one—who would deride or deny its sacred and supreme authority, as a babbler to be shunned.
But we have also a word of advice for Dr. Perry himself. He tells us that he is an old man, and speaks of the "privilege" which is usually accorded to Age in the delivery, for the benefit of younger minds, of its accumulated experience. Admitted. We respect age; we can even sympathise with one who, like Dr. Perry, has devoted his life to the propagation of a creed, which, in his declining years, the progressive thought of society appears to threaten. It is to be regretted, however, that the Bishop should, in the exercise of his 'old man's privilege," have deemed it necessary to speak of some of the foremost of living men in terms which are greatly to his discredit. What does he mean by speaking of Mr. Huxley, and others, as men "whose object it is to propagate infidelity," as "adversaries of the Bible who would, if possible, make all men unbelievers like themselves," and as "fools" to whom "God sends strong delusion that they should believe a lie?" Old as he is, we trust Dr. Perry will live to see the folly, and repent of the injustice, of these silly allusions.
In conclusion, we wish to say that our admiration, aye, and our reverence, for the Bible, considered as an inestimable collection of grand religious utterances, interwoven with touching and heroic phases of human experience, which will thrill the soul of humanity to the end of time, are as intense as those feelings possibly can be. We prize the brave old Volume for the depth of its devout trusts, the purity of its pious aspirations, the godly memories of which it is the record, and for that record especially which tells of the glorious young man who, by the waters of Galilee, or among the hills about Jerusalem, propounded a faith page 74 in the one ever-living and all-loving God, which, in spite of the corruptions it has undergone, is with us to-day in its ever-freshening purity; and who, mighty-souled youth that he was, did not hesitate to seal that faith with his dear blood. Precious, however, as is the Bible to us, it ranks below the human Reason and Conscience, of which it is the product, and to the tribunal of which it must be brought for the determination of its real place among the educational agencies by which the destiny of the human race is being worked out. Thus judged, the Bible contains much in sentiment, in motive, in doctrine from which the heart of man instinctively recoils; intuitively condemns : much also in relation to matters of history, matters of science, matters of philosophy, which the mind of man unhesitatingly pronounces untrue. Is it infidelity to recognise this fact? Is it unbelief to act upon it? Then pray we, and that most earnestly, that Infidelity and Unbelief—twin pillars of the world's salvation—may seize upon the heart of Christendom, and rouse it to a new and more vigorous life.