« PreviousContinue »
Even in the immediate range of physical science there is a still more prophetic intimation of miraculous agency than the mere exhibition of a principle opposed to unity, and yet combined with it in nature. The essential nature of inductive and experimental philosophy places it at every moment in the position of grappling with difficulties, anomalies, interruptions, discordances, apparent exceptions to its laws, and violations of its hypotheses-because hypothesis must always precede experiment, and hypothesis is inadequate at first to account for all phenomena. If the intellect of science were placed from its infancy, as it were, to advance forward on a smooth and velvet lawn, ascending by one unbroken elevation, and uninterrupted progress, it might well be startled to find its career and expectation of continuous advance ever suspended or broken. But if its path be one of perpetually-recurring obstacles, menaces of obstruction, compulsory deviations, long delays, hopeless struggles, and baffled efforts-surely this is a warning to expect the same at every point of its career; never to assume a law without anticipating seeming exceptions, never to generalise a theory without preparing for an apparent antago
So must it be with the theory of the uniformity of the operations of God in nature, and of God in miracles. Believe the uniformity; but as a theory, which, tempting and perfect as it seems, may yet possibly require to be modified. Believe the miracles, in the sure and certain hope that, on examination, they must be reconcileable with the highest laws of that Almighty Will, which has created nature. Nature is the operation of God; miracles are the same. They cannot present a contradiction to the eternal laws of one and the same Divine nature. But the harmony will be found not in the lower region of the Divine operations, but in the higher-not in the physical but in the moral universe. So-called philosophers, jealous, as they would pretend, of the honour of the Almighty, of His unity and consistency, reject miracles because they violate His laws. What laws? The laws of the material world? But already we have shown that perhaps no such laws exist-none of which we possess a shadow of proof. Modes of operation assuming great continuity and regularity we do find, but these are not laws. Departures from such modes of procedure are not violations of laws, justifying a charge of inconsistency. But the laws of God's own nature, His own immutable perfections of moral goodness and omniscient wisdom, do
His work, subsequent to its first foundation. Prove this fact, and all pretence of objection to a still later interposition, and therefore to miracles, vanishes at once. Bishop Butler has indicated this reasoning; but it opens too vast a field to dwell on now.
miracles violate these? Are miracles an interruption of these? Are they not a wondrous exhibition of them? Are they not absolutely necessary to complete the perfection of such a moral creation as the Scriptures prophesy and describe? It is not in physical science to give the answer, but in the science of morals and of man; and the answer must be given separately.
And here Science will lift its warning voice against the hand, which would thus drive it upwards from its own especial empire, the world of matter, and confuse, bewilder, and deceive it by strange and exotic speculations drawn from the world of spirits.
And we also will lift up our warning voice against this warning voice of Science. And with it we will conclude.
It is well and wise for Philosophy to map out the field of Nature, as the farmer marks out the grass-field for the mowers, in order to secure a due distribution of labour, and diligent execution of work. But Nature, with all its multitude of parts, is still one; all its parts are shaded off into each other so insensibly, that any strict line of demarcation, as we find in the attempt to discriminate species, is absolutely impracticable. It is like its Divine Creator, after whose image it was made, both one and many. And if each ancillary science by itself, or the science of matter as distinct from the higher sciences of morals and of intellect, instead of merely marking out conventional lines for more convenient labour, will persist in elevating impassable barriers between each other, each refusing either to lend or to borrow assistance from its sister science, each narrowing down its search into its own narrow province, and proscribing any eye which fain would comprehend the whole, simply because there was a time when that principle of comprehension was abused and perverted-then each science must condemn itself to a low, and barren, and ignoble drudgery of collecting and registering facts, but without any power to bind them together and constitute science. Socalled physical science may still be an enormous warehouse of promiscuous specimens, an enormous bonehouse of undigested observations, but it cannot be philosophy; and for this reason, that it cannot generalize without hypotheses distinct from facts, and these hypotheses it cannot obtain, except from other provinces of human knowledge than its own. Detach astronomy from optics, and mechanics, and mathematics-deprive geology of the services of botany and anatomy-dissever chemistry from electricity, and all from the science of reasoning-need we proceed? Does it require a word to prove that, as the universe is one vast confederacy and consociation of marvels, interlaced with the profoundest intricacy, and yet pervaded by the most wondrous unity, the eye which would thoroughly embrace one part must also embrace the whole?
If the great intellect of an Owen can from the fragment of a bone draw out and prophesy the whole animal, it is because he has never degraded himself to the mere menial scrutiny of the part, without also surveying the whole. It is his knowledge of the whole which enables him to interpret the part.
And what is true of each subordinate and ancillary science is true of physical science as a whole in relation to the science of morals of man and of his God. If that physical science is to become anything else but a bare and barren chaos of fact, if it is to presume to crystallize, inject, and breathe into those facts life and power by theory (and without theory, what is their value?), it must have recourse to the sister sciences which deal with mind and spirit. Great prudence, great caution, great jealousy will be legitimate, where great evil has before arisen from such a commerce; when presumptuous imaginations have argued rashly from theories of a moral and divine nature to facts of physical science. Proscribe all such madness; but do not proscribe, do not shrink, as if ashamed, from one great and sovereign Science, which comprehends the laws of laws, the cause of causes, and, so far as it is cognizable by man, the whole theory of the universe, its end and object. Survey the whole field of matter, ascend from step to step of organized creation, till you come to man. But then embrace the whole range of human nature and human history, omitting nothing, if you would theorize from the observation of man to an explanation of the mysteries of Nature, and of Nature's God. You do so already in part. Every theory of physical science, every law that is imagined, every attempt to connect it with the unity, or the intelligence, or the benevolence of a Creator, is in reality an hypothesis borrowed from the science of man—of man not as a mechanism of matter, but as a moral and intellectual spirit. Comprehend the whole of human history, comprehend what it professes to offer-God's own account of the Divine Creator, of His creation, of His destined end for man, of His objects in creation, of His intentions towards it, of His own nature; comprehend this, if only as hypothesis, and try, if it does not lead to sounder and juster views of physical science, views more exactly conformable to the true logic of induction, than any which can possibly be suggested by partial and narrow-minded imaginations, which, while they pretend to proscribe all communication with the theology of Christianity, are really deriving all their inspiration from an idolatry of their own.
ART. IV.-1. Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton. By Sir David Brewster. London, 1855. 2. Addresses on Popular Literature, and on the Monument to Sir Isaac Newton. By Henry, Lord Brougham, F.R.S. London, 1858.
F all the labourers in the field of science since the world began, it is remarkable that there is but one who has attained a popular as distinguished from a scientific fame. There are multitudes whose achievements are recognised in the republic of science, and not a few whose names are honoured throughout the educated classes of every country within the range of civilization; but if we were to seek for a reputation which has not only illumined the study of the recluse and the salons of society, but has penetrated even to the nursery and the cottage, we should have to travel beyond the bounds of physical or mathematical science to find another name to set beside that of Newton. Columbus and Galileo might perhaps be cited as parallel instances; but it was the adventures of the one, and the torture supposed to have been inflicted upon the other, that made their names familiar to a wider circle than a scientific reputation commonly embraces. Those who love to dilate upon the unerring instincts of the mass of mankind may fancy that they find in this unexampled appreciation of the glory of the great English philosopher an additional proof of their untenable theory; while the more sceptical observers of the progress of human affairs may be tempted rather to question the title of Newton to the solitary eminence which has been awarded to him, than to acknowledge the sagacity with which people of all ranks, and the learned of all nations, have concurred in the selection of their chief scientific hero. There is a flavour of truth about both of these extreme views. That the popular verdict which has placed Newton on a pedestal apart from all rivals, whether contemporary or of an earlier or a later age, is right, is established by the common consent of all who have proved themselves qualified to pronounce upon so high a controversy, and is confirmed by every additional detail which the industry of our times has brought to light of the pursuits and the methods of the greatest inquiring mind which has ever grappled with the problems of nature. If it did not appear a somewhat presumptuous limiting of the possible capacities of the human race, it might almost be said with confidence not only that Newton stands by himself, above all who went before him, and all who have followed in the century and a half of brilliant scientific discovery which has elapsed since his death, but that it is (so far as any such speculation can be trusted) impossible that any competitor can ever place himself on the same level with 2 D
Vol. 110.-No. 220.
the great interpreter of the motions of the heavens and the earth. No one can say that the genius which guided Newton through his rapid career of discovery may not be equalled or surpassed in some future age of human progress; but the force of Lagrange's observation must ever remain, that there can only once be found a system of the universe to establish. On the other hand, it is not difficult to discover many reasons for the broad expanse and the deep root of Newton's fame, which have but a remote connection with the merit of which that fame is the enduring memorial.
The laws which govern the award of fame would furnish a curious subject of inquiry. The principles on which the critic or the historian acts, in meting out the due meed of praise to each workman on that great temple of science which has occupied all past generations, and must remain unfinished by the labours of all generations to come, are very different from those on which the judgment of universal opinion, with a justice of its own, is based. The dignity of the subject matter has at least as much voice in the decrees of fame as the powers displayed by the rival aspirants for the honour of an immortal reputation. The artist who decorates a chapel or a shrine, may show as much excellence as the architect who designs a cathedral; but the grandeur of his work reflects a lustre on the one which his fellow-workman may in vain aspire to share. So, in the conduct of the affairs of the world, the greatness of the sphere in which a man has lived has far more to do with his enduring reputation than the sagacity or the heroism which he may have displayed. The same powers which, in the ruler of an empire, would insure an immortality of fame, may be exhibited by the governor of a province with no other reward than the cold approbation of his superiors, followed by the oblivion which has settled on many of the greatest names. This truth is quite as observable in the history of science as in that of politics or art.
Another extensive influence which warps the estimate formed by posterity of distinguished leaders of thought or action, is supplied by national prejudice. Let the career of a man be identified in any way with national aspirations, national pride, or national jealousy, and there is scarcely any limit to the glory which he may acquire within the bounds of his own country. In honouring him, his fellow-countrymen feel that they are in some sort honouring themselves; and the vanity of self-love exercises a sway all the more potent, because it is disguised under the semblance of a disinterested hero-worship.
Even more than either of these mighty forces, the all-pervading power of theological sentiment works with facts, or in