Page images


evidence which is furnished by Christianity to assure us of a Future Life, and a Resurrection of the Body. Christianity appeals to the fact of Christ's Resurrection, as the evidence that we also shall be raised, because by His close and intimate union with us, as our Redeemer, His Resurrection is the pledge and type of our resurrection. Christianity furnishes us also with the inner witness to this fact, in the indwelling of Christ's Spirit in our hearts, sanctifying our bodies as well as our spirits, and so assuring us that our bodies, raised from the dust and glorified, shall be re-united to the glorified spirit. The resurrection of the body is then shown to be a reasonable inference from our natural constitution, and the difficulty of supposing that the body which turns to corruption can be raised again, is met by recourse to natural analogies. Christianity, therefore, gives us the positive evidence we crave, and satisfies the irrepressible yearnings of the human heart to ascertain its future destiny.

That such a subject, at all times of intrinsic interest, possesses at the present time a peculiar importance, will not be questioned. Both at home and abroad

may be seen abundant evidence of the rapid growth of materialistic doctrines. Men insist, more and more, upon the study of what they are pleased

[blocks in formation]

to call facts, meaning by that name, only such phenomena as come under the observation of the senses, and either deny or disregard, as unknown, and unknowable, all that lies beyond this narrow range of observation, In Germany, the Pantheistic philosophy of Hegel and Schelling has yielded to the materialistic doctrines of men like Vogt, Moleschott, and others of the same school. It is some evidence of the prevalence of such doctrines that a manual such as that of Büchner (Kraft und Stoff), which, without laying claim to any original research, summarizes, and puts in a clear and popular form, the chief arguments of the materialists, passed in five years through seven editions, and has now reached a ninth.

In France, if we are to credit the Bishop of Orleans (Les Alarmes de l'Épiscopat justifiés par les faits), “Materialism is publicly taught, under the “sanction of the Minister of Public Education, and “is assuming every day more vast and more threatening proportions.” “It is triumphant,” he asserts, "in the School of Medicine in Paris. We recollect," he continues, " those wild cries of, vive le matérialisme, uttered last year (1867) at the opening of the session :" and he then cites passages from a number of

” theses, admitted by the Faculty of Medicine, and by the authority of the University, which maintain the


doctrines of materialism in their most extreme and repulsive form, and formally deny the being of a God, and the responsibility of man. The same doctrines, it is alleged, are inculcated, even in some schools for girls, which were founded with the professed design of training them as libres penseuses, and the distinctive feature of which is, that morality is taught apart from religion.

If there is less of systematic and formal inculcation of materialism in England, it cannot be denied that there is a tendency in some of our scientific men to use language, which unquestionably has a materialistic colouring. Do not let me be ranked with those who dread or are hostile to science, because I say this. No one rejoices more than I do in the progress of all true science ; no one more heartily honours the men who have devoted their lives to some of the highest pursuits which can occupy the mind of man; no one is more thoroughly convinced that there is nothing in science which can be regarded with suspicion, as antagonistic to religion or to our eternal hopes. Indeed I deeply regret the language which is sometimes used by theologians, in reference to science and scientific men, and the jealousy, the distrust, the suspicion, which are thereby too often engendered between those, who,

[ocr errors][merged small]

if they understood one another better, might become fellow-workers in a glorious cause, the most glorious to which man can devote himself, the cause of truth.

I hope, therefore, I shall not be misjudged if I venture to offer some comment on Professor Huxley's paper in the Fortnightly Review for last month (February 1869) “On the Physical Basis of life." I desire to speak with all courtesy of a writer for whose abilities and attainments I entertain a very sincere respect. Mr Huxley says, that he is "no materialist, but on the contrary believes materialism to involve grave philosophical error” (p. 141); and I am bound to believe him. I will go further and say, that his theory of a protoplasm, supposing it to be established, would not alarm me. I should not feel, that in accepting the description of organic life in the language applied to physical forces, I was necessarily “placing my feet on the first rung of a ladder which leads to the antipodes of heaven." At the same time I must confess, that I am wholly unable to see where the difference lies between his language, at least in some portions of his essay, and the language of the avowed materialist. Thus for instance, he quotes with approval the following passage from one of Hume's Essays:

“If we take in hand any volume of Divinity, or School Metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence ? No Commit it then to the flames; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion."

And he then adds :

[ocr errors]

“Permit me to enforce this most wise advice. Why trouble ourselves about matters of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing and can know nothing? We live in a world which is full of misery and ignorance, and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try to make the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat less ignorant than it was before he entered it. To do this effectually it is necessary to be fully possessed of only two beliefs : the first, that the order of nature is ascertainable by our faculties to an extent which is practically unlimited; the second that our volition counts for something as a condition of the course of events.”

Is it putting an unfair construction upon this remarkable paragraph to say, that Mr Huxley here expressly excludes everything, as a legitimate subject of enquiry, but such phenomena as can be tested by experiment and observation? Does he not affirm that we do know, and can know, nothing of matters which lie outside of this region, and in which must certainly be included, the soul, its relation to God, and its future destiny. That in the same breath he should allow that "matters may possibly be important,” about which we not only "do know,” but “can know nothing,” is an inaccuracy which I will not

« PreviousContinue »