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Edward Hitchcock.

Religious truth, illustrated from science, in addresses and sermons on special occasions online

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ASTKO^'OMICAL ILLUSTilATlONS.



SG«I PPS (N'->T!TUTION

FOR
BIOtCGICAL KESEAKCH



RELIGIOUS TIIUTII,



ILLUSTRATED PROM SCIENCE,



IN



ADDRESSES AND SERMONS



ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS.



BT



EDWARD HITCHCOCK, D.D.,LL.D.,

LATE PRESIDENT OF AMHERST COLLEGE, AND NOW PROFESSOR OF NATURAL
THEOLOGY AND GEOLOGY.



>^ BOSTON:

PHILLIPS, SAMPSON AND COMPANY.
1857.






tlSRARY

SC R I pVt I NS^f ITUTI O N
OF OCE>^i^RAPHY

LA JOULA. CALIFORNIA



^'■^



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by

PHILLIPS, SAMPSON AND COMPANY,

.In the Clerk's Offico of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.



STEREOTTPED AT THE
BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY.



PREFACE.



The quarryman, who has made excavations in the
rocks for architectural materials, sometimes looks over
the fragments which have been thrown aside, and finds
blocks that seem to him worth preserving. Thus have
I been doing with the literary debris, which has been
quarried and wrought on si^ecial occasions, and after-
wards thrown aside. With some new dressing, I have
ventured to hope that a part of them are worth pre-
serving, and this volume is the result. A brief history
of the several articles is subjoined.

The first article, entitled The highest Use of Learn-
ing', was my Inaugural Address when assuming the
presidency of Amherst College, April, 1845.

The second, on The Relations and Miittial Duties
hetiveen the Philosopher and the Theologian, was de-
livered as an Anniversary Address before the Porter
Rhetorical Society, at the Andover Theological Semi-



PREFACE.



nary, in 1852. It was subsequently published in the
Biljliotheca Sacra, from which it has been copied, by
permission.

The third, on Special Divine Interpositions in Nature,
was given before the Theological Seminaries of Bangor
and Newton, in 1853. This, also, was published in the
Bibliotheca Sacra for 1854.

The Wonders of Science compared with the Wonders
of Romance, is a Lecture which has been delivered
before literary associations in the cities of New York,
Brooklyn, New London, Norwich, Lowell, Charlestown,
Salem, Newburyport, and Springfield ; also at Amherst
College, and in some other places. It has never before
been published.

The Religious Bearings of Man's Creation was
preached as a Sermon before the Convention of Con-
gregational Ministers, in Brattle Street Church, Boston,
May, 1854. It was also delivered as an Address before
the Theological Society of Dartmouth College, in
August, 1854. It has likewise been preached in Am-
herst College, in Springfield and Conway, Massachu-
setts, Brooklyn and Buffalo, New York, and Milwaukie,
Wisconsin. In August, 1856, it was preached in Rev.
Dr. Sprague's Church, in Albany, on Lord's Day
morning, at the time of the meeting of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science. By the



PREFACE.



local committee of that association it has been pub-
lished in connection with a Sermon by President Hop-
kins, of Williams College, delivered in the afternoon
of the same day.

The Sermon entitled The Catalytic Power of the
Gospel was preached before the Massachusetts Home
Missionary Society, at its anniversary in Boston, in
May, 1852. It was published by the Society in pam-
phlet form.

The Attractions of Heaven and Earth has been
preached as a Sermon in Amherst College, in Amherst,
West, East, and North Parishes ; in Hatfield, Whately,
Enfield, South Deerfield, Conway, and Richmond,
Massachusetts. Its chief peculiarity is the employment
of diagrams. It has never before been published.

The Sermon entitled Mineralogical Illustrations of
Character, has been preached only in Amherst College,
at an evening lectvire. Its chief peculiarity is the
employment of a few mineral specimens for illustra-
tion. This is the first time it appears in print.

The Inseparable Trio was an Election Sermon,
preached January 2, 1850, in Old South Church,
Boston, before His Excellency George N. Briggs, His
Honor John Reed, the Honorable Council, and the
Senate and House of Representatives of Massachusetts,
by whom it was published in the pamphlet form. It is



6 PREFACE.

added to this Yoliimc from a growing conviction of the
importance of the leading principle advanced in it.

A Chapter in the Book of Providence was delivered
as an Anniversary Address before the Mount Holyoke
Female Seminary, at Soiitli Iladley, in 1849, and pub-
lished in a pamphlet form. I give it a place in this
volume chiefly to exhibit the outlines of the character
of one of the most energetic and benevolent females
of modern times.

Tlie Waste of Mind is also an Address at the anni-
versary of the same institution, in 1842. It was pub-
lished by the trustees in a pamphlet form.

Excepting the two or three last of the preceding
articles, it will be seen that scientific facts and prin-
ciples are employed to prove or illustrate religious
truths. This fact embraces so large a part of the
volume, that I have felt justified in placing it upon
the title page.

I might have added many more articles of analogous
character, but fear that I have already presumed
too much upon the interest of the public in such
productions.

Amhekst College, November 20, 1856.



CONTENTS.



-Page

THE HIGHEST USE Of LEARNING, . . . . . .9

THE RELATIONS AND MUTUAL DUTIES BETWEEN THE
PHILOSOPHER AND THE THEOLOGIAN, .... 54

SPECIAL DIVINE INTERPOSITIONS IN NATURE, . . 98

THE WONDERS OF SCIENCE COMPARED WITH THE

WONDERS OF ROMANCE, 132

THE RELIGIOUS BEARINGS OF MAN'S CREATION, . . 192

THE CATALYTIC POWER OF THE GOSPEL, . . . .223

THE ATTRACTIONS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, . . .255

MINERALOGICAL ILLUSTRATIONS OF CHARACTER, . , 285

THE INSEPARABLE TRIO, 303

A CHAPTER IN THE BOOK OF PROVIDENCE, . -. . 335

THE WASTE OF MIND 376



THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING.



The cause of education, in this country at least, is almost
univei'sally popular. Yet were we to pass around the inquiry
among the different classes of society, why they regard it so
important, we should probably receive very different answers.
One man, himself uneducated, places its chief value in the
means it affords of defence against the impositions of the de-
signing and unprincipled. Another values it chiefly because
it enables him to take advantage of the ignorance of the world
in promoting his schemes of self-aggrandizement. A third
looks upon the means which education affords for acquiring
property, as its highest use. A fourth regards the personal
reputation, respect, and influence, which learning bestows, as
its chief advantage. A fifth thinks of it mainly as an instru-
ment of advancing civilization, and multiplying the comforts
and luxuries of life. A sixth estimates most highly its influ-
ence in elevating the lower classes of the community above
the condition of mere animals and drudges, and in making
them understand that the body is not the only part of man to
be cared for. A seventh places the highest use of learning
in its power of disciplining and liberalizing the mind, and
delivering it from vulgar fears, superstitions, and prejudices ;
and in giving to men just views of their rights, relations, and
destinies. An eighth thinks most of the boundless fields of

(9)



10 THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING.

enjoyment which knowledge opens to tlie human mind, of a
far more noble and refined kind than any dependent upon
animal nature. A ninth makes its most important use to con-
sist in its bearings upon religion, both natural and revealed.

Now, in my opinion, this ninth man has the right of the
matter most decidedly ; and yet I fear that his opinion is not
the most common, or the most popular. But to my convic-
tion, the religious applications of learning are by far its most
important use ; and the occasion seems to be a fit one to de-
fend and illustrate this opinion. It needs, I believe, both
defence and illustration. For though the belief is general
that religion may derive some benefit from particular branches
of learning, there is still an impression lingering on many
minds, that some sciences are unfriendly in their bearings
upon religion, and that others have no relations to religion.
Much less is it generally believed that the strongest reason
why we should sustain common schools, academies, and col-
leges, is, that we are thus promoting the cause of true reli-
gion. But if this be indeed true, then, when we give our
property, our infiucnce, or ourselves, to the cause of learning,
we shall do it with a heartier good will and a more entire con-
secration ; and we shall the more cheerfully bear up under
the trials, fatigues, disappointments, and perplexities that lie
in our path.

I would not, indeed, undervalue the secular advantages of
learning. They are so obvious and so important, that I could
not do it if I would. Those whose experience reaches back
fifty, or forty, or even thirty years, have evidence in their
own consciousness of the economical value of learning, too
strong to be overcome by any speculative argument depreci-
ating its importance. When we compare the present condition
of the world, and our own condition, with what thev were in



THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING. 11

our early days, we cannot but be deeply impressed with
the rapid progress of society, and the multiplication of secu-
lar advantages, and the means of comfort and happiness,
growing out of the advancement of learning. Branches of
science and literature, which, at the beginning of this centu-
ry, were tabooed to all who were not residents within the
walls of universities and colleges, and even some branches
that scarcely had an existence then, are now the theme of
familiar conversation in the workshop, on the farm, in the
stage coach, the rail car, the steamboat, and the packet. And
so simplified are the elementary principles of many of these
branches, as to be brought within the comprehension of the
child at the primary school. Instead of the stinted sources
of information then possessed in a few small newspapers and
periodicals in some of the larger cities, and a few republica-
tions of small European works, the country is now flooded
with newspapers of all sizes below one that will swallow up
an octavo, and with periodicals and books to suit all tastes, all
purses, and all fancies, from the penny pamphlet up to the
seven hundred dollar volumes of Audubon.

Still more striking has been the progress of the useful arts
from the application of scientific principles. In Great Brit-
ain, at this moment, steam performs a work that would re-
quire the unaided labor of more than four hundred millions of
men ; and a work as great probably, in proportion to the pop-
ulation, in our own country. Improvements in machinery
and in chemical processes have doubtless within this century
made a still greater deduction from the amount of labor ne-
cessary ; and these improvements reach every class of the
community ; pointing out to them an easier path to compe-
tence, and affording them leisure to cultivate their intellectual
and moral powers. Then, too, how striking the change in



12 THE HIGHEST VSE OF LEAKNINR.

respect to intercommunication, both on land and water ! We
now hardly give a serious parting to our friend who starts
upon a trip of only some five hundred or a thousand miles,
so soon shall we see him again. And even when we have
bid him adieu, as he starts on foreign travel, we hardly begin
to reckon his absence by months, certainly not as formerly
by years, ere he greets us again ; having made the tour of
Europe, or perhaps stood within the Holy City, or coasted the
shores of the Black Sea and the Caspian, or gone down the
Red Sea to India and the Celestial Empire, and returning by
the Isthmus of Panama, he has completed the circuit of the
globe. And besides the problem has just been solved, of car-
rying on a conversation and transacting business with our
friend when absent, even though hundreds, and it may be
thousands, of miles intervene between us.

Now, these are advantages derived from the progress of
learning so obvious as to be known and read of all men ; and,
therefore, we are apt to suppose them the chief advantages.
Whereas the applications of literary and scientific truths to
religion lie more out of sight, and can be appreciated fully
only by him who is well acquainted both with learning and
religion, and who looks at their relations with the eye of a
philosopher. We must dwell a little, therefore, upon these
relations in order to sustain the position that has been taken.

I need not argue before such an audience as this the supe-
rior importance of religious principles to all others. This will
be admitted ; for all other truths have reference to time, these
to eternity : all others regard man's mortal, these his immor-
tal interests : all others are limited by created natures ; these
centre in the uncreated God. Religious principles, therefore,
are in their very nature of infinite moment. Other truths
have gradations of value ; but these are invaluable, because



THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING. 13

necessarily immortal and infinite. Every thing, therefore, in
literature or science, that discovers, illustrates, or confirms
the eternal principles of religion, swells into an importance
proportionably great. It remains, then, only to show that the
wide fields of learning afford us such illustrations over their
entire surface, and the position will be made out, that the re-
ligious applications of literature and science are the most
important of all their 4'elations ; and that, consequently, when
we consecrate our property, our influence, or our lives, to the
cause of education, we consecrate them to one of the noblest
of all human enterprises.

Accompany me now, my friends, as we rapidly pass around
the circle of literature and science, in order that we may see
what are the relations between religion and the different
branches of human learning.

We meet, first, with the ancient classics, whose study forms
so important a part of a liberal education in modern times.
The religious principles which they contain are, indeed, fa-
tally fiilse ; and not much more consonant with modern views
is their philosophy. Nevertheless, they afford most important
aid in elucidating revelation. The very absurdity of the my-
thology and philosophy of the classics brings out, by contrast,
in bolder relief the beauties and glories of Christian doctrines
and Christian philosophy ; and instead of leading the student
to embrace polytheism, they prepare his mind for the recep-
tion of the gospel. Besides, many passages of Scripture
would be unintelligible, and others unimpressive, without that
knowledge of ancient opinions and manners which the clas-
sics disclose. And then, too, how unfit to give a correct
interpretation of Scripture is he who is unacquainted with
the languages in which it was originally written ! It does not
prove this position false to state, what is certainly true, that



1^ THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING.

many men have faithfully preached the gospel, and been in-
strumental of the conversion of great numbers, who were
ignorant of classical literature. So there have been surgeons
and physicians unacquainted with anatomy, physiology, and
chemistry ; and they may have performed many skilful op-
erations and effected many cures, and thtis done much good.
But other things being equal, no one would feel as safe in the
hands of such practitioners as in those familiar with the struc-
lure of the human system, and with the laws that govern it,
and with the chemical nature and action of medicines. In
difficult cases such practitioners would shrink from prescrip-
tions and operations ; or if they rashly attempted them, would
be very likely to tie the omo-hyoid muscle instead of the ca-
rotid artery ; or to administer nitric acid in connection with
mercury ; or by some analogous blunder, to put the patient's
life in jeopardy. And mistakes alike dangerous, sometimes
infinitely more so, because they involve the loss of the soul,
must he be liable to make, who engages in the ministerial
oflice ignorant of the original languages in which the Scrip-
tures were written. And if one such fatal mistake should
result from his ignorance, what a terrible drawback would it
be upon a whole life of devoted usefulness!

In modern times human learning has become so prodigious-
ly expanded, and so many new branches have been estab-
lished, that it is difficult to discourse intelligibly concerning it
without defining the terms which we employ. In France and
Germany, the word literature embraces the whole circle of
written knowledge ; and with many English writers it has the
same wide .signification. But often the meaning is restricted
to those branches which treat of the social, moral, and intel-
lectual relations of man. Polite literature, or belles-lettres,
is still more limited in its meaning ; embracing poetry, oru-



THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING. 15

tory, and perhaps history, biography, and some otlier mfeccl-
laneous subjects. The term science is applied to those
branches wliose principles are considered as well settled ;
and with the exception of some parts of mathematics, the
term is chiefly confined to the material world ; although mor-
al science, and intellectual science, are phrases frequently
used.

Adopting these definitions, we might arrange all human
knowledge under the three heads of Literature, Science, and
Art. Let us first inquire into the influence of modern litera-
ture upon religion.

And here it must be acknowledged in the outset, that not a
little of the influence of modern polite literature has been
very disastrous to religion. For much of it has been pre-
pared by men who were intemperate, or licentious, and se-
cretly or openly hostile to Christianity ; at least to its peculiar
doctrines. And their writings have been deeply imbued with
immorality, or infidelity, or atheism. Yet the poison has been
often so interwoven with those fascinations of style, or thought,
characteristic of genius, as to be unnoticed by the youthful
mind, delighted with smartness and brilliancy. And even
when the plague spots have been pointed out, it has tended,
like the prohibition of the fruit of the tree of knowledge in
Eden, to excite an irresistible desire to open the proscribed
volumes, even though they should prove a second box of Pan-
dora.

Perhaps no branch of literature has been oftener and more
successfully employed as a vehicle for the propagation of in-
fidel opinions than history. Eightly understood, and faithfully
interpreted, it gives strong light and confirmation to revelation
and to morality. But sceptical ingenuity has often been able
to make its voice as ambiguous as a Delphic oracle, and as



16 THE HIGHEST USE OF LEARNING.

fallacious as ventriloquism. In pagan Greece and Rome,
their historians, except perhaps Tacitus, were even over cred-
ulous on the subject of polytheistic religion. And so in mod-
ern times, previous to the last century, the historian was
usually the supporter of revealed truth. But the talented yet
anomalous Bayle, in that manual of in-eligion, his Critical
Dictionary, led the way in converting facts into an engine
against Christianity. Voltaire and others learned the lesson,
which was perfected by Gibbon and Hume. So often, how-
ever, have their sophistries and cavils been exposed, that it is
only the unwary who are now entrapped. The great mass
of historical literature also, your Rollin and Ramsay, Miillcr,
Schlegel, Heeren, Goldsmith, Smollet, Russell, Turner, Rob-
ertson, and a multitude of others, are favorable to religion ;



Online LibraryEdward HitchcockReligious truth, illustrated from science, in addresses and sermons on special occasions → online text (page 1 of 33)