Edward Hitchcock.

The religion of geology and its connected sciences online

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and impressive style. But there is such a thing as the philosophy of
language and the philosophy of rhetoric, whose principles are derived
chiefly from moral and intellectual philosophy. And these, we have reason
to believe, are eternal. Different as will be the mode of communicating
thoughts hereafter from the present, we shall find the same philosophical
principles lying at its foundation. Hence we may expect that there will be
a celestial language, a celestial rhetoric, and a celestial oratory, in
whose beauty and splendor those of earth will be forgotten.

I now proceed briefly to consider those sciences which, having little
connection with material organization, we may more confidently maintain
will have an existence on the new earth.

It will be hardly necessary to spend much time in proving that
intellectual philosophy will be one of the subjects of investigation in a
future world. For it would be strange if the noblest part of God's
workmanship, for which materialism was created, should cease to be an
object of inquiry in that world where alone it can be investigated with
much success. When we consider that the whole train of mental phenomena is
constantly passing under the mind's own observation, and that a vast
amount of time and talent has been devoted to the subject ever since man
began to philosophize, - that is, for more than two thousand years, - it
would seem as if psychology ere this must have attained the precision and
certainty of mathematics. But how different is the fact! I speak not of a
want of agreement in opinion on subordinate points, for these minor
diversities must be expected in any science not strictly demonstrative.
Even astronomy abounds with them. But metaphysical philosophers have not
yet been able to settle fundamental principles. They are not yet agreed as
to the existence of many of the most familiar and important intellectual
powers and principles of action. The systems of Locke and Hume,
constructed with great ability, were overthrown by Reid; Stewart differed
much from Reid; and Dr. Thomas Brown has powerfully attacked the fabric
erected by Stewart. And lastly, the phrenologists, with no mean ability,
have endeavored to show that all these philosophers are heaven-wide of the
truth, because they have so much neglected the influence of the material
organs on the mental powers. Now, this diversity of result, arrived at by
men of such profound abilities, shows that there are peculiar difficulties
in the study of mind, originating, probably, in the fact that, in this
world, we never see the operation of mind apart from a gross material
organization. But in another state, where no organization will exist, or
one far better adapted to mental operations, we may hope for such a
clarification of the mental eye that the laws of mind will assume the
precision and certainty of mathematics, and the relations between mind and
matter, now so obscure, be fully developed. Then, I doubt not, the
principles of mental science will furnish a more splendid illustration of
the divine perfections than any which can now be derived from the material

Will any one believe that the principles of moral science and mathematics
will be altered or annihilated by the conflagration of the globe? We
believe them no more dependent upon the external universe than is the
divine existence. God exists by a necessity of nature, and these
principles have the same unchanging and eternal origin. If so, no changes
in the material world can affect them. So far as we understand them here,
we shall find them true hereafter; and we shall doubtless find that our
present knowledge is but the mere twilight of that bright day which will
there pour its full light upon these subjects. Mathematical and moral
truths, which we now suppose to be general laws, we shalt then find to be,
in many cases, only the ramifications of principles far wider, which we
cannot now discover, and which we could not comprehend were they open to
inspection. And we shall also find that moral laws are as certain and
demonstrable as those of mathematics; and that they form the adamantine
chain which holds together the spiritual world, and gives it symmetry and
beauty, as mathematics links together the material universe.

Among men who understand biblical interpretation, and also the principles
of science, the belief in the annihilation of the material universe at the
close of man's probationary state is fast disappearing, and the more
scriptural, philosophical, and animating doctrine is embraced, that there
will be only a change of form and condition of our earth and its
atmosphere, and that the matter of the universe will survive, and
successively assume new and more beautiful forms, it may be eternally. If
so, all those physical sciences, which do not depend upon organic
structure, will form subjects of investigation in the heavenly world.
There will be the heavenly bodies, governed by the same laws as at
present, and offering a noble field for examination. Nor will the heavenly
inhabitants need, as on earth, visual organs and optical instruments,
which, at best, afford us only glimpses of the material universe. For
there, if we rightly conjecture, will they possess the power of learning,
with almost intuitive certainty and intuitive rapidity, the character and
movements of the most distant worlds. Nay, it may be that they can pass
from world to world with the velocity of light, and thus become better
acquainted with their more intimate condition. Thus will the astronomy of
the celestial world surpass, beyond conception, that science which even
now is regarded as unequalled for its sublimity.

We cannot be sure through what material medium the mind will act in a
future world. But the manner in which we know heat, light, and electricity
to be transmitted, makes it not impossible that the same or a similar
medium may be the vehicle through which thought shall be hereafter
transmitted. If so, we can easily understand how the mind will be able to
penetrate into the most recondite nature of bodies, and learn the mode in
which they act upon one another; for the curious medium which conveys
light and heat does penetrate all bodies, whether they be solid or
gaseous, cold or hot. Hence we may learn at a glance, in a future world,
more of the internal constitution of bodies, and of their mutual action,
than a whole life on earth, spent in the study of chemistry, will unfold.
Then, too, shall we doubtless find chemical laws operating on a scale of
grandeur and extent, limited only by the material universe.

Universally diffused as light, heat, and electricity are, and diligently
as their phenomena have been studied, yet what mystery hangs over their
nature and operations! They seem to be too subtile, and to approximate too
nearly to immaterial substances, to be apprehended by our beclouded
intellects. When, therefore, our means of perception shall be vastly
improved, as we have reason to believe they will be in eternity, these
will become noble themes for examination. For who can doubt that agents so
ethereal in their nature, and apparently indestructible, and even
unchanged by any means with which we are acquainted, will survive the
final catastrophe of our world? Probably, indeed, we are allowed to catch
only glimpses of their nature and operations on earth, so that we may
safely anticipate an immense expansion of the electricity and optics which
will form a part of the science of heaven.

We have endeavored to show, in a former lecture, that the future residence
of the righteous will be material; that it will, in fact, be the present
earth, purified by the fires of the last day, and rising from the final
ruin in renovated splendor. We have shown that this is the doctrine of
Scripture, of philosophy, and of a majority of the Christian church. A
solid world, then, will exist, whose geology can be studied by glorified
minds far more accurately and successfully than the globe which we
inhabit; for those minds will doubtless be able to penetrate the entire
mass of the globe, and learn its whole structure. The final conflagration
may, indeed, for the most part, obliterate the traces of present and past
organic beings. But according to the doctrine of action and reaction in
mechanics, in chemistry, in electricity, and in organization, every change
that has ever passed over the earth has left traces of its occurrence
which can never be blotted out; and it is not improbable that glorified
minds will possess the power of discovering and reading these records of
the past, if not on the principle just specified, yet in some other way;
so that the entire geological history of our planet will probably pass in
clear light before them. Points which we see only through a glass darkly
will then stand forth in full daylight; and from the glimpses we are able
to obtain in this world of its present geological changes, what a mighty
and interesting series will be seen by celestial minds! If, even by the
colored rays which come upon us through the twilight of this world, we
are able to see so many striking illustrations of the divine character
engraven on the solid rocks, what a noble volume of religious truth shall
be found written there, when the light of heaven shall penetrate the
earth's deep foundations! Those foundations, figuratively described in
revelation as so many precious stones, bearing up a city of pure gold,
clear as glass, will then reflect a richer light than the costliest
literal gems which the rocks now yield. The geology of heaven will be
resplendent with divine glory.

We see, then, with a few probable exceptions, resulting from a difference
between the organism of heaven and earth, that science will survive the
ruin of this world, and in a nobler form engage the minds, and interest
the hearts, of heaven's inhabitants. It will, indeed, form a vast
storehouse, whence pious minds can draw fuel to kindle into a purer and
brighter flame their love and their devotion; for thence will they derive
new and higher developments of the divine character. Shall we not, then,
admit that to be religious truth on earth which in heaven will form the
food of perfectly holy minds?

The position which I laid down, at the outset, that scientific truth,
rightly applied, is religious truth, seems to me most clearly established.
If admitted, there flow from it several inferences of no small interest,
which I am constrained to present to your consideration.

_In the first place, I infer from this discussion that the principles of
science are a transcript of the Divine Character._

I mean by this, that the laws of nature, which are synonymous with the
principles of science, are not the result of any arbitrary and special
enactment on the part of the Deity, but flow naturally from his
perfections; so that, in fact, the varied principles of science are but so
many expressions of the perfections of Jehovah. If the universe had only a
transient existence, we might suppose the laws that govern it to be the
result of a special ordination of the Deity, and destined to perish with
the annihilation of matter. But since we have no evidence that matter will
ever perish, and at least probable evidence that it will exist forever,
the more rational supposition is, that its laws result from the nature of
things, and are only a development of so many features of the divine
character. If so, then the most important inquiry in the study of the
sciences is to learn from them the phases in which they present the divine

_In the second place, it does not follow from this subject that the most
extensive acquisitions in science necessarily imply the possession of true

Piety consists in the exercise of right affections of heart towards God,
excited by religious truth. Now, I have attempted to show only, that the
natural tendency of scientific truth is to excite such religious
affections; but that tendency, like all other good influences, may be, and
often is, resisted. Hence a man may reach the loftiest pinnacle of
scientific glory whose heart has never heaved with one religious emotion.
He may penetrate to the very holy of holies in nature's temple, and yet
retain his atheism, in spite of the hallowed influences that surround him.
Nothing is plainer in theory, and, alas! nothing has been more surely
confirmed by experience, than that the possession of science is not the
possession of religion.

_In the third place, what a perversion of science it is to employ it
against religion!_

Rightly understood, and fairly interpreted, there is not a single
scientific truth that does not harmoniously accord with revealed as well
as natural religion; and yet, by superficial minds, almost every one of
these principles has, at one time or another, been regarded as in
collision with religion, and especially with revelation. One after another
have these apparent discrepancies melted away before the clearer light of
further examination. And yet, up to the present day, not a few, closing
their eyes against the lessons of experience, still fancy that the
responses of science are not in unison with those from revelation. But
this is a sentiment which finds no place with the profound and
unprejudiced philosopher; for he has seen too much of the harmony between
the works and the word of God to doubt the identity of their origin. He
knows it to be a sad perversion of scientific truth to use it for the
discredit of religion. He knows that the inspiration of the Almighty
breathed the same spirit into science as into religion; and if they utter
discordant tones, it must be because one or the other has been forced to
speak in an unnatural dialect.

_In the fourth place, how entirely have the natural tendencies of science
been misunderstood, when they have been represented as leading to
religious scepticism!_

I do not deny the fact that many scientific men have been sceptical. But I
maintain that this has been in spite of science, rather than the result of
its natural tendency; for we have shown that tendency in all cases to be
favorable to piety. Other more powerful causes, therefore, must have
operated to counteract the natural influence of scientific truth in those
cases where men eminent for science have spurned away from them the
authority of religion. Among these causes, the pride of knowledge is one
of the most powerful; and before the mind has attained to very profound
views of science, this pride does often exert a most disastrous influence
upon a man's religious feelings.

He is looked up to as an oracle on other subjects, and why should he not
be equally wise concerning religion? It is natural for him to feel
desirous, in such circumstances, of rising above all vulgar and
superstitious views, and of convincing his fellow-men that he has made as
great discoveries in religion as in science. He, therefore, calls in
question the prevailing religious opinions. Having once taken his stand
against the truth, pride does not allow him to recede, and he endeavors to
convert scientific truth into weapons against religion. And this
perversion produces the impression, with those not familiar with its
natural tendency, that science fosters scepticism.

Another cause of this scepticism is a superficial acquaintance with the
religious bearings of scientific truth. It is one thing to master the
principles of science in an abstract form, and quite a different thing to
understand their religious bearings. Moral reasoning is so different from
physical and mathematical, that often a mind which is a prodigy for the
latter, is a mere Lilliput in the former. And yet that mind may fancy
itself as profound in the one as in the other, and may, therefore, be as
tenacious of its errors in religion as of its demonstrated verities in

In the following extract it will be seen that Dr. Chalmers imputes the
religious scepticism connected with science chiefly to a superficial
acquaintance with science. His remarks may seem unreasonably severe and
sweeping; nevertheless, they deserve consideration. And they accord with
the idea of Lord Bacon, who says, "A smattering of philosophy leads to
atheism; whereas a thorough acquaintance with it brings him back again to
religion." "We have heard," Dr. Chalmers remarks, "that the study of
natural science disposes to infidelity. But we feel persuaded that this is
a danger associated only with a slight and partial, never with a deep,
and adequate, and comprehensive, view of its principles. It is very
possible that the conjunction between science and scepticism may at
present be more frequently realized than in former days; but this is only
because, in spite of all that is alleged about this our more enlightened
day and more enlightened public, our science is neither so deeply founded,
nor of such firm and thorough staple, as it was wont to be. We have lost
in depth what we have gained in diffusion; having neither the massive
erudition, nor the gigantic scholarship, nor the profound and well-laid
philosophy of a period that has now gone by; and it is to this that
Infidelity stands indebted for her triumphs among the scoffers and
superficialists of a half-learned generation." - _Chalmers's Works_, vol.
vii. p. 262.

Briefly, but nobly, has Sir John Herschel vindicated science from the
charge of sceptical tendencies. "Nothing can be more unfounded than the
objection which has been taken _in limine_ by persons, well meaning,
perhaps, certainly of narrow minds, against the study of natural
philosophy, and, indeed, against all science, that it fosters in its
cultivators an undue and overweening self-conceit, leads them to doubt the
immortality of the soul, and to scoff at revealed religion. Its natural
effect, we may confidently assert, on every well-constituted mind, is and
must be the direct contrary. No doubt the testimony of natural reason, on
whatever exercised, must, of course, stop short of those truths which it
is the object of revelation to make known; but while it places the
existence and principal attributes of a Deity on such grounds as to render
doubt absurd, and atheism ridiculous, it unquestionably opposes no natural
or necessary obstacle to further progress; on the contrary, by cherishing
as a vital principle an unbounded spirit of inquiry and ardency of
expectation, it unfetters the mind from prejudices of every kind, and
leaves it open to every impression of a higher nature, which it is
susceptible of receiving; guarding only against enthusiasm and
self-deception by a habit of strict investigation, but encouraging, rather
than suppressing, every thing that can offer a prospect or hope beyond the
present obscure and unsatisfactory state. The character of the true
philosopher is to hope all things not impossible, and to believe all
things not unreasonable." - _Diss. on Study of Nat. Phil._

In speaking of geology and revelation, Sir John says, "There cannot be two
truths in contradiction to one another, and a man must have a mind fitted
neither for scientific nor for religious truth, whose religion can be
disturbed by geology, or whose geology can be distorted from its character
of an inductive science by a determination to accommodate its results to
preconceived interpretations of the Mosaic cosmogony." - _Dr. J. P. Smith's
Lectures_, p. viii. 4th edition.

"We have often mourned," says M'Cosh, "over the attempts made to set the
works of God against the word of God, and thereby excite, propagate, and
perpetuate jealousies fitted to separate parties that ought to live in
closest union. In particular, we have always regretted that endeavors
should have been made to depreciate nature with a view of exalting
revelation; it has always appeared to us to be nothing else than the
degrading of one part of God's works in the hope thereby of exalting and
recommending another." "Perilous as it is at all times for the friends of
religion to set themselves against natural science, it is especially
dangerous in an age like the present.

"It is no profane work that is engaged in by those who, in all humility,
would endeavor to remove jealousies between parties whom God has joined
together, and whom man is not at liberty to put asunder. We are not
lowering the dignity of science when we command it to do what all the
objects which it looks at and admires do - when we command it to worship
God. Nor are we detracting from the honor which is due to religion when we
press it to take science into its service, and accept the homage which it
is able to pay. We are seeking to exalt both when we show how nature
conducts man to the threshold of religion, and when from this point we bid
him look abroad on the wide territories of nature. We would aid at the
same time both religion and science, by removing those prejudices against
sacred truth which nature has been employed to foster; and we would
accomplish this not by casting aside and discarding nature, but by rightly
interpreting it.

"Let not science and religion be reckoned as opposing citadels, frowning
defiance upon each other, and their troops brandishing their armor in
hostile attitude. They have too many common foes, if they would but think
of it, in ignorance and prejudice, in passion and vice, under all their
forms, to admit of their lawfully wasting their strength in a useless
warfare with each other. Science has a foundation, and so has religion;
let them unite their foundations, and the basis will be broader, and they
will be two compartments of one great fabric reared to the glory of God.
Let the one be the outer and the other the inner court. In the one, let
all look, and admire, and adore; and in the other, let those who have
faith kneel, and pray, and praise. Let the one be the sanctuary where
human learning may present its richest incense as an offering to God, and
the other the holiest of all, separated from it by a veil now rent in
twain, and in which, on a blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, we pour out the
love of a reconciled heart, and hear the oracles of the living
God." - _Method of the Divine Government_, p. 449, _et seq._

_In the fifth place, scientific men and religious men may learn from this
subject to regard each other as engaged in a common cause._

If it be indeed true that scientific truth, rightly applied, is religious
truth, then may the religious man be sure that every scientific discovery
will ultimately contribute to the illustration of the character or
government of the Deity; and therefore should he encourage and rejoice in
all such investigations, and bid God speed to the votaries of science.
Even though he cannot see how the new discovery will illustrate religion,
and though, when imperfectly developed, it may seem to have an unfavorable
aspect, he need not fear to confide in the general principle that science
and religion are alike of divine origin, and must be in harmony. On the
other hand, the votary of science should remember that the state of
society most favorable to his pursuits is one in which religion exerts the
strongest influence. It is for his interest, therefore, merely as a lover
of science, and much more as a moral and accountable agent, to have pure
religion prevail. Scientific and religious men should, therefore, look
upon each other as co-laborers in a most noble cause - in illustrating the
divine character and government. All jealousy and narrow-minded
exclusiveness should be banished, and side by side should they labor in
warm-hearted and generous sympathy. Alas! how different from this has been
the history of the past! and, to a great extent, how different it is at
present! "A study of the natural world," says Professor Sedgwick, "teaches
not the truths of revealed religion, nor do the truths of religion inform
us of the inductions of physical science. Hence it is that men, whose
studies are too much confined to one branch of knowledge, often learn to
overrate themselves, and so become narrow minded. Bigotry is a besetting
sin of our nature. Too often has it been the attendant of religious zeal;
but it is perhaps the most bitter and unsparing when found among the
irreligious. A philosopher, not understanding one atom of their spirit,
will sometimes scoff at the labors of religious men; and one who calls
himself religious will, perhaps, return a like harsh judgment, and thank
God that he is not as the philosophers; forgetting, all the while, that
man can ascend to no knowledge except by faculties given to him by his
Creator's hand, and that all natural knowledge is but a reflection of the
will of God. In harsh judgments, such as these, there is not only much

Online LibraryEdward HitchcockThe religion of geology and its connected sciences → online text (page 38 of 39)