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combining a true Theology and a correct morality in a religion, than which man as fallen can conceive of nothing more suited to his ten thousand sincaused wants, the Christian faith stands on a foundation of which none less than the Infinite could have laid a stone, and exhibits details which no hand but that of infatuated presumption, or ofrash ignorance, ventures to attempt a re-arrangement in the slightest particular. Like its Author, the spirit which it breatbes is one and indivisible. It implies one principle, that of love-love in the form of mercy for the guilty, and a promise of loftier gifts than are the natural heritage of the innocent. One act is its origin, for which the Incarnation was a preparation, that of a Divine atonement for moral offence. Its one object is, that essential Benevolence, after its mysterious pause, may resume (as mortals must speak) its interrupted course, and, henceforth unchecked, may restore a fallen world or worlds to uprightness and purity, or may create new ones in security from moral evil, no more finding a "strange work" necessary whilst displaying its utmost energy of blessedness.
Or what is the Christian plan of redemption but God stooping from His throne to lift the creature many steps higher than he could otherwise have risen towards Himself ? or His unveiling Himself to the full extent of that which the finite may see, “yet seeing, live? ” or His throwing wide the Sanctuary of His own habitation, that each who presents himself under the seal of His hallowing Spirit may for himself draw near, holding personal communion with a present Deity-present as He could have been in no other way—in a limitless progression of knowledge and bliss ?
In short, were the truth of Christianity a hundred times less probable than it is, who is he that ignoring its authority, either by "adding unto," or“ taking from the words of the Book of this Prophecy," offers himself, on the strength of being furnished with a show of neatly-arranged axioms, and a few “philosophical” data, as ready to fashion a religion more suitable for man as he is, because more accommodated to presumptions as to what, if he can only be left to himself, he will be? He that would fain sound the ocean without a plummet, is wise in comparison with one who by earth's scant measures thinks to weigh and compass the purposes of the Uncreated,—from the experience of a shadowy life, swells with the thought of embracing the designs with regard to man of the Eternal and the Infinite ! We here speak boldly, because Revelation and Christianity come to us with credentials—assailed, disparaged, denied, yet after all credentials; their opponents have as yet produced none worthy of the name.
Having given a general view of the question at issue between Scepticism and Faith, we will now look at one, at least, of the more important of the considerations which should regulate every attempt to arbitrate between them.
It is manifest to every close observer that Scepticism mistrusts its own conclusions, such as they are. There is no problem into which the sceptical philosophy looks with so much eagerness, and which it feels itself to be under so pressing a necessity of solving, as that which relates to the possibility of attaining to certainty in the personal application of the Christian creed. Such an acceptance of revealed dogma as sets the intellect practically at rest, is regarded, however, at the very outset, as incompatible with the philosophical temper,-as being in itself an evidence of a want of acquaintance with “ those primary grounds of belief” from which all religion is presumed to spring. And yet, with no slight curiosity, & curiosity which in thoughtful and earnest minds speedily becomes a restless anxiety, the theoretic moralist is incessantly patting questions to the Christian believer; in the hope of extracting, if possible by logical analysis and a purely “ rational" method, the great secret which in some way or other seems, after all, to be wrapped up in the personal experience of the latter. To the one the confidence of the other, on subjects confessed to be immeasurably the most abstruse and important to which human attention can be directed, is a mystery. That narratives so strange, doctrines so precise in their statement and comprehensive in their range-miraculous events without visible and present vouchers, and prophecies whose fulfilment must be their own vindication—that all this, and much more, should be calmly received by any thoughtful mind, upon such proofs only as have hitherto been brought for it, seems to not a few to be an avoidance of, by the help of self-blindness to, the gravest difficulty that the human intellect can encounter.
And it will remain, we allow, not only difficult, but impossible to reconcile the Christian belief with intellectual cravings so long as these cravings are sought to be pacified in the mode now so widely adoptedthat of attempting to arrive at demonstration in every case in which for any conceivable reason it is demanded. The “service” required by Christianity as it is, is indeed “rational.”* But to assume that religion will be placed upon a broader footing, and command universal, though it might be reluctant homage, when philosophers once reach for them. selves, and exhibit to mankind at large," the idea of the Absolute, the conception of a God,” is altogether gratuitous. What ascertained truth, held to be a demonstration, is necessarily of practical moral advantage to its possessor ? For every fact asserted or comprehended by the finite, a proof, by the necessities of its existence, may be asked ; for every separate proposition evidence may be reasonably required; for every positive idea that the creature at any point of its career will gain there yet remains a final account, a solution, a sufficient reason," in the personal Unknown. But in all this intellectual processes are concerned which may be, too frequently are, carried on in total independence of religion. What in truth but the expression of a vague ambition is the offer, made by some who would fain appear friendly to the claims of Revelation, to come to its rescue by setting forth this “Absolute," presumed to be realizable, as the future effective mediatrix between the demands of faith and mere intellectual aspirations? This attempt to return to Eden by appearing before the guardian Cherubim with a passport of mental exercises as an equivalent for a changed heart, is perhaps the most palpable error into which modern “illuminism" has fallen; is the one which most of all shows how far what passes with many for philosophy may stray from the simplicity of the true conception of the religious life.
* Λογική λατρείο, (Rom. xii. 1.) VOL. XIX.-FIFTH SERIES.
For those, we concede, who are not directly seeking to take out of the path of human “progress," as a great stumbling-block, the necessity of“ believing;” who do not indeed avowedly reject but seek to supersede, by including in some “higher law," some still “ more simple formula,” the rule which for us assumes a final form, “ He that believeth shall be saved," "He that believeth not shall be condemned,” it is well, and of no small importance, that the moral sense, betraying at every step of its trial its inherent weakness, should be supported by well-sustained arguments for the natural consistency, as well as for the supreme authority, of the Christian scheme.* But to say, "I will understand, comprehend, know why I believe, before I will believe," is a doctrine which quenches all hope so long as it is held. Human nature contradicts it by practising its opposite in every case but the one in question—that, namely, in which religion, the religion of Christianity, is concerned. The exception is fatal to all who make it. Experience shows that men may be finally undone as easily, in some cases perhaps more easily, by their self-justifying theories on moral and religious questions, than by the indulgence of vicious passions. The practice is at least a dangerous one ; its necessary tendency is to strengthen, till it becomes dominant and insurmountable, the barrier of self-will which stands between every natural man and that new life whose first demand, and essential virtue it is, to take God at His word.
In no respect, in other words, does the inwrought, though derived, defectiveness of the moral sense in man more constantly betray itself, than in his readiness to transfer the whole business of religion from the affections to the understanding; to reduce, that is, the controversy between God and himself to one of intellectual perceptions rather than moral relations. To suspect, if not to reject, all evidence adduced in favour of Christianity, for the very reason—the necessary absence of demonstration-which in any other case practically determines us to an opinion, a belief, and to corresponding conduct, and that decisively, though the most momentous interests be at stake, is the natural but baneful result of this error. To guard against this intoxicating cup of self-sufficiency is a significant part in the moral probation of every one of
It is not our purpose, however, to enter upon a discussion of some practical matters obviously here involved. These we may safely leave to every earnest believer in the main principles of Revelation. The personal application of them, even as witnessed by the mouth of “babes and sucklings,” is not unfrequently irresistible. The argumentum ad hominem, from the full use of which we now shrink, will one day display strange results, authoritatively pleaded, and conscientiously responded to, as it will be, at a tribunal where none will doubt whether the Divine equity coincides or not with logical precision.
In the mean time God will be more and more justified in His constitution of His intelligent creatures: to a conscience sincere with itself, a quality much more rare than our self-love would fain represent it to be,
* Butler’s “ Analogy" may be taken as the great type of that class of Christian defences here alluded to.
the practice of the Christian religion, as embodied in the New Testament, will appear a simple thing, and all the more commendable because of its simplicity; whilst to unsympathizing theorists and interested recusants it will become more and more obscure, as it is disputed about and suspected; until, making themselves foils for the truth, "seeing they see not; hearing they hear not; neither do they understand,” their boasted light culminating at length in total darkness.
Here present themselves some particulars, suggestive both of explanation of truth and of correction of error, too important to be entirely passed over in any notice, however brief, of the controversy under consideration. We reserve these for a third paper.
THE WORK DONE AT THE GREENWICH OBSERVATORY.
In passing in review the works that have been accomplished in furtherance of the objects for which the Greenwich Observatory was constituted, we begin with the formation of star catalogues, for these are the foundations of exact astronomy. Flamsteed formed a catalogue of three thousand three hundred and ten stars, that remained the standard work of its kind for half a century, and has, in respect of selection and nomenclature of the stars it comprised, served as the basis of every catalogue since produced. Halley did nothing in this department. Bradley worked wonders ; he laid the foundations of the present fabric of mensurative astronomy. In 1750, when his new instruments were mounted, he began the daily course of meridional observations of principal stars, sun, moon, and planets, which has continued without interruption, save by bad weather, to the present time. His star observations were incorporated into a catalogue, which comprised three thousand two hundred and twenty-two stars, by Bessel, and, with values of the constants of refraction, aberration, precession, and other elements deduced therefrom, was presented by the illustrious Königsberg astronomer in a great work, whose title expresses its character-we allude to the “Fundamenta Astronomiæ.” The rich harvest that Bradley reaped has not yet had all its good grain thrashed out; for at this moment several German astronomers are engaged in a re-reduction of his observations, believing that they can get from them even more than Bessel obtained. Maskeleyne did not aim at producing a great catalogue : he confined himself to thirty-six of the principal stars, whose places he sought to fix with the utmost possible exactness, in order that they might serve as reference. points of the first order. Pond accumulated a long series of observations, and produced a catalogue of one thousand one hundred and twelve stars, which was the most valuable contribution to the sidereal astronomy of the time, and is second in accuracy to no modern catalogue. The present astronomer-royal has already produced four large catalogues; the first from the observations during the twelve years 1836–47; the second from the six years 1848–53; the third from the seven years 1854-60, and the fourth from the seven years 1861–67. The numbers of stars in these catalogues average over two thousand each ; each contains all the fundamentals, and together they include the greater portion, if not all, the stars visible at Greenwich down to the fifth magni tude, and the majority of the sixth. They are sought all the world over, wherever accurate astronomy is pursued for its own sake or for geographical or geodetical purposes, and they have served and will serve again as the best materials for researches upon the proper motion of the stars or of the solar system.
Then as to the moon ; Greenwich has alone sufficiently supplied the investigators of her movements from the time of Newton to the present. At so critical a period was the Observatory established that Flamsteed actually fed Newton, so to speak, from hand to mouth, with places of the moon for perfecting the lunar theory which the latter was then deducing from his theory of universal gravitation ; and there is an entry in Flamsteed’s note-book of the author of the “Principia” coming down to Greenwich one evening for twelve observations of the moon, of which he was in urgent need. Halley, though he did no star work, made some moon observations, and compared them with his own lunar tables....... The lunar observations of Bradley, Maskeleyne, and Pond, have to be spoken of connectedly, for they were reduced en masse by the present astronomer-royal, and they form the basis of the Lunar Tables that are now in almost universal use. But before this stupendous uniform reduction, the Greenwich Observatory had furnished twelve hundred moon observations to improve the tables of Mayer, which were the first generally available for nautical longitudes; three thousand were employed by Burg for his tables, which so' completely satisfied the conditions of a prize for such tables offered by the Consular Government of France, that the First Consul doubled the prize ; and of the four thousand which were employed by Burckhardt to correct the lunar elements for his famous tables, which served for nearly fifty years prior to 1862 as the basis for all navigational predictions, nearly the whole must have been derived from Greenwich.
The great lunar reductions previously alluded to embraced nearly nine thousand Greenwich observations of the moon, made between the years 1750 and 1830—a series without a parallel. The first fruit of their reduction was general correction by Sir George Airy of the received elements of the moon's orbit. The next was the discovery by Professor Hansen, of Gotha, of two inequalities of long period in the moon's motion, depending upon the direct and indirect action of the planet Venus. And what may be considered for the present as the ultimate outcome, was the construction by Hansen of the great Lunar Tables that bear his name, which represent the motions of our satellite with an accuracy surpassing all others, and abundantly sufficient for the preparation of reliable nautical ephemerides. Hansen's tables are used for all the important “ Nautical Almanacks" of the world, with one exception, that of America, for which special tables were previously prepared, embodying, however, the corrections derived from the long suite of Greenwich observations.
If we look to other planetary tables, we find the same dependence for their data upon our National Observatory. The tables now used for Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus are those by Bouvard (1821), and they depend mainly upon the observations of those planets by Bradley,