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“In Theology,” said Kepler, “we balance authorities; in Philosophy we weigh reasons. A holy man was Lactantius, who denied that the earth was round; a holy man was Augustine, who granted the rotundity but denied the antipodes; a holy thing to me is the Inquisition, which allows the smallness of the earth, but denies its motion; but more holy to me is truth; and hence I prove by philosophy that the earth is round and inhabited on every side, of small size, and in motion among the stars,—and this I do with no disrespect to the Doctors.”
If theologians, as well as philosophers, may now enjoy the quaint irony and earnestness of these words, it is because even a defeated party can afford to smile at absurdities which they have outgrown. We sometimes amuse ourselves with the errors of a former age by turning them into a foil to modern wisdom. But they may serve a graver purpose. History, while it cheers us with evidences of progress, likewise warns us that we are still fallible, and possibly as to this very class of questions more than any other.
How far the nineteenth century is really in advance of the seventeenth, as respects the great problem of a logical affiliation of human science and divine revelation, and consequent harmony of civilization and Christianity, may be seriously argued. Since the age of Kepler there have indeed been changes for the better. Astronomy no longer disturbs the current interpretation of scripture; theology has grown more tolerant of scientific opinion; and the memorable lessons of the controversy are not yet spent in other fields of inquiry. But what progress has been made toward a settlement of the general question involved in such conflicts? How much nearer are we to a philosophy or fixed doctrine of the reciprocal relations of reason and revelation, of science and theology? What broad surveys have we of their distinct provinces and common ground ? What clear discriminations of their respective methods and laws, and of their logical and historical interaction ? And what systematic attempts at harmonizing and organizing the existing bodies of knowledge which they have developed ? Must not every enlightened observer admit that the field of contro versy has been widening rather than contracting; that the state of parties throughout that field grows more involved and serious; and that the tenor of the strife is already critical? And is it to be maintained, that this is the normal or final relationship of the two interests? Are they of necessity and always mutually indifferent, antagonistic, and exterminating? Or, do they admit of gradual reunion, coincidence, and harmony?
These are questions which begin to force themselves upon thoughtful minds. They not only invite, but require and deserve consideration. Their very difficulty and delicacy are overborne by their urgency.
Viewed in one light, they are indeed suited to daunt the most reckless speculation. What mortal wisdom can reap two such vast fields of knowledge, or bind into sheaves such varied harvests of truth! How jealous is reason of faith, and faith of reason! And how warily must either venture within the bounds of the other! To link the jarring sciences, material and moral, rational and revealed, into one series, by one method, and to one aim; to organize a true hierarchy in this present anarchy of knowledge, divine and human,—this is not the task of any single mind or age; and were it in itself a mere wordy pastime of philosophers, all earnest souls would but shrink from it in proportion as they comprehend it.
Viewed in another light, however, such questions only nerve while they tempt our curiosity. What a mass of human interests hangs upon their issue ! What a medley of human opinions is involved in their solution! How all human duty and destiny concentrate in the problem of reconciling the finite with the Infinite reason! and how all human history points to the goal where science returns into Omniscience, the earth becomes subject to man, and man to God! The unity of nature and scripture, the harmony of theory and creed, the marriage of reason and faith, the perfection of knowledge, the triumph of art, the regeneration of society,—these, in their order, are linked ideals of prophecy and philosophy, which at once overawe and charm us into an enthusiasm that must grow in fervor as it grows in humility and caution.
History is full of analogies to support the idea that great social movements do not burst upon the world as mere happy accidents, or as the achievements of distinguished leaders, but grow logically out of some existing exigency, known and felt by the few long before it is seen by the many. The modern reformations in religion, science, and politics which we associate with such names as Luther, Bacon, and Washington, and hail as the wonders of our era, may now be traced back to causes secretly working for centuries before, and be linked in a series of events binding the whole past to the present, and the present to the future. For thus does Providence rule the world in order and reason.
An inquiry into the historical origin of the existing schism between science and revelation, might confirm