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Thus far Dr. Wiseman. But it is not alone in Italy, and three centuries ago, that such statements were made ; else we might be disposed to hint to Dr. Wiseman that we could give a reason for our having no difficulty in believing his assertion, that men were found bold enough to cast to the winds the most undoubtful testimony of their own and other men's
We are sorry to be obliged to confess that such hardihood is not confined to the country and the period, where and when men were schooled to such boldness, by being required to believe the doctrine of transubstantiation, in opposition to the equally undoubtful testimony of the same senses. In our own Protestant England, and in our own day, we find a class of writers expressing precisely similar sentiments. We find, for example, one of this class of writers, the Rev. J. Mellor Brown, as quoted by Dr. Pye Smith, "looking with evident complacency to the hypothesis that' Almighty God may, by the mere fiat of his power, have intentionally brought every rock and stratum, every fossil leaf and shell and bone, into its present form and condition ;'” in other words, that the stratą are not strata, that the leaves and shells and bones are not, and never were, leaves and shells and bones, but that they are merely ingeni. ously contrived semblances of such things. Now, it were vain to deny that, in some cases, objects may be supposed to belong to one class of fossils, which do, in reality, belong to another; as the leaf of a fern may be mistaken for the back-bone of a fish, or vice versa; and as the ammonites, which so abound at the mouth of the Humber and elsewhere, were once regarded, and by the peasantry are still regarded, as headless snakes.* It may also be freely admitted that it is very probable that some objects may be regarded as animal or vegetable remains, which are not really such ; while it cannot be doubted that multitudes of such remains are as yet unrecognised. But, making all due allowance for probable error, we are just as sure, respecting hundreds of thousands of fossil objects, that they are what they appear to be, as we are certain that any of the other objects, by which we are surrounded, are what they are commonly understood to be.
Such notions as those under notice are, by some, supposed to indicate a more than ordinarily strong regard for the authority of scriptural testimony; but they do in reality sap the foundation of all testimony whatsoever, and open a door for the introduction of a universal and most ruinous scepticism. “Whoever contradicts our senses (says Archbishop Tillotson, while speaking of transubstantiation) undermines the foundation of all certainty.” It is strange that writers of this class should not see at once that, in their zeal for the authority of scripture, they give admittance to a principle which would utterly annihilate that authority. We speak not now of the havoc they so relentlessly make in all the arguments from design and wisdom manifested in the works of creation-sweeping away Natural Theology at once from the encyclopædia of the sciences. But we would call attention to the fact, that the Bible itself would become a virtual nullity under their mode of treatment. The argument of Gibbon against transubstantiation is unanswerable when urged against the views in question. If our senses cannot be trusted to distinguish between a skeleton and the semblance of a skeleton, how shall we claim for them, or rather for one of them, the power of discriminating between a letter and the semblance of a letter ? How shall it be proved that there is any reality in the scriptural narrative ?
* See Marmion, Canto II.
They told, how in their convent-cell,
Between the admission of the general accuracy of the testimony of our senses on the one hand, and the pure Hindu doctrine of Maya, or universal illusion, on the other, there is no resting place where consistency can be maintained. We must either go the whole length with that common sense, which teaches us to place confidence in the clear intimations of our own senses and those of other men, or we must go the whole length with the Hindu sages, who represent all such indications as utterly false, and the universe as a phantasmagoric deception. In the one case we shall be consistently right, in the other consistently wrong. In every other case there must of necessity be a portion of truth and a portion of falsehood, which can by no possibility cohere. We are perfectly serious in stating our firm conviction that the notion under notice lays the axe to the root of all truth; and even if the notion itself were true, it is one that it were well for its discoverer most religiously to conceal. Yea, conceal it he must; for it is impossible for language to enunciate it without at the same time refuting it ; for how is it possible for us to declare that we can know nothing, without at the same time stating that we do know at least one thing to wit, that we know nothing and implying our knowledge of many other things ?
We have said enough now-some of our readers may think a little more than enough, as to the opinions of those who deny the geological facts, and who think thereby to vindicate the authority of the Bible. Although we so love the Bible our. selves as to be disposed to regard with considerable leniency the errors into which men may be led by a sincere but indiscriminating love of it, we must protest against the idea, which all such errors as we have spoken of tend to originate and foster, that the Bible requires any such violent measures for the vindication of its authority, or the defence of its doctrines :
Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis,
Tempus eget. However, we have now done with those who deny the geological facts ; henceforth our concern is with the interpretation of the facts.
We should next notice the attempts that have been made to get rid of the supposed contradiction between Geology and Scripture, by a denial of the latter, equally bold with the denial of the former that we have just noticed. But it would lead us a great deal too far, and into regions moreover which we have no desire to traverse, were we to take any notice of the merely infidel assertions that were rife in the days to which Dr. Chalmers alludes, when he speaks of " Geology arising from the depths of the earth, and entering into combat with a revelation, which, pillared on the evidence of history, has withstood the onset;" and again, when he speaks of the attempts made to “shiver the evidences of our faith by the hammer of the mineralogist." To state and refute these attempts would be, we trust, a needless task ; we therefore gladly confine ourselves to a notice of the denial, by professing Christians, of the authority of the narrative of the creation. As a fair specimen of the mode in which this denial is supported, we shall have recourse to Mr. Babbage, whose professed (and undoubtedly sincere) object is to vindicate the authority of the Mosaic narrative, and to rescue it from the hands of those rash interpreters, who, by attempting to explain it in such a way as to increase its accordance with the undoubted facts of Geology, might, as he fears, shake the confidence that men ought to entertain in its perfect truth. This he attempts to do, by shewing that we are not at all certain of the genuineness of the passage ; nor, if this were ascertained, are we at all certain of the meaning of the words of which it is composed. Perhaps it is too much to expect our readers to take this statement of Mr. Babbage's sentiments on our assertion, and indeed it is always most satisfactory to state any sentiments, that we have occasion to controvert, in the words of their own advocates. It will be observed that Mr.
Babbage is arguing against those who hold sentiments similar to those that we have just come from discussing-those who, out of zeal for the authority of scripture, deem it necessary to deny the facts of Geology. Here is what he says of the genuineness of the Mosaic record :
Those, bowever, who attempt to disprove the facts presented by observation, by placing them in opposition to revelation, have mistaken the very ground work of the question. The revelation of Moses rests, and must necessarily rest, upon testimony. Moses, the author of the oldest of the sacred books, lived about 1,500 years before the Christian era, or about 3,300 years ago. The oldest manuscripts of the Pentateuch at present known appear to have been written about 900 years ago. These were copied from others of older date; and those again might probably, if their history were known, be traced up through a few transcripts to their original author; but no part of this is revelation ; it is testimony. Although the matter which the book contains was revealed to Moses, the fact is, that what we now receive as revelation, is entirely dependent on testimony.
The meaning of this cannot be mistaken. The object is to shew that to contradict the Pentateuch, as it now stands, is merely to contradict the transcribers through whose hands it has reached us. It is to vindicate a supposed revelation, which nowhere exists, and which we have no earthly reason to believe ever did exist, at the expense of that revelation which is in our hands. So much for the genuineness of the record. Now for what is said of the language in which it is composed. Our quotation goes on from the point where we just broke it off :
Admitting, however, the full weight of that evidence, corroborated as it is by the Samaritan version; nay, even supposing that we now possessed the identical autograph of the book of Genesis by the hand of its author, a most important question remains-what means do we possess of translating it ?
In similar cases we avail ourselves of the works of the immediate predecessors, and of the contemporaries of the writer; but here we are acquainted with no work of any predecessor; of no writing of any contem: porary; and we do not possess the works of any writer in the same language, even during several succeeding centuries, 'if we except some few of the sacred books. How then is it possible to satisfy our minds of the minute shades of the meanings of words, perhaps employed popularly; or, if they were employed in a stricter and more philosophical sense, where are the contemporary philosophical writings, from which their accurate interpretation may be gained ?
Mr. B. proceeds to illustrate the matter by supposing the parallel case of the interpretation of a passage in Shakespeare, on the supposition of our having none of the works of his predecessors, none of those of his contemporaries, and very few of those of his successors. He then goes on :
The language of the Hebrews, in times long subsequent to the date of that book, may not have so far changed as to prevent us from rightly understanding generally the history it narrates ; but there happens to be no reasonable ground for venturing to pronounce with confidence as to the minute shades of meaning of allied words, and on such foundations to support an argument opposed to the evidence of our senses.
We quite agree with Mr. Babbage as to the last sentiment expressed in this extract ; as we have already intimated that we have no sympathy whatever with those against whom he is arguing. But we do most decidedly protest against the line of argument that Mr. Babbage adopts, while dealing with our common antagonists. In point of fact there is not a shadow of reasonable doubt as to the genuineness of this portion of the Pentateuch ; neither is there any difference of the slightest moment among Hebraists as to the proper translation of it. The interpretation is quite another matter, which will claim our notice anon.
The result then is that Mr. Babbage would have us virtually ignore the Mosaic account altogether, as if it were impossible for us, first of all to know whether the account which we now possess is the Mosaic account at all; and then, as if it were equally impossible to ascertain the meaning of the account that we actually possess. It is not very easy to believe, and yet we do believe, that Mr. Babbage's real object is to save the Bible from the rude encounter of the Geologists, to which he supposes that the indiscretion of its defenders has exposed it." He would save the credit of Moses by withdrawing him from the conflict altogether; and then he would save the Mosaic narrative, or what is generally received as such, by enveloping it in a cloud of impenetrable obscurity. We may well ask-Čui bono? If this passage of scripture is to be vindicated in this way, why may not all ?-and so the Bible is to be defended at the expense of its own existence.*
• We are sorry to be obliged to say that this is not the only instance of singular inconsequence, occurring in a very delightful work, which has been suggestive to us of several thoughts which we regard as valuable. In the chapter on “Hume's argu. ment against miracles,” Mr. Babbage says:
“ The difficulty which is frequently experienced in understanding this argument, appears to arise from the circumstance that a double negative is concealed under the words, 'its falsehood would be more miraculous than. [In the following sentence; “The plain consequence is, that no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.] For in Hume's argument the word * miraculous' means improbable, although the improbability is of a very high degree. The clause then reads.
“Its falsehood would be more improbable than" Which is evidently equivalent to
“ Its truth would be less improbable than“ Which is again equivalent to
“ Its truth would be more probable thanReplacing this in Hume's argument, it stands thus:" "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be