« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
doubt, but all plain people must think of it as we do. I have seldom known a person use language of this kind who had the least right to put himself forward as representing the common sense or conscience of mankind, who did not shew by many infallible tokens that he had been bred in a very artificial school, and that he had taken no pains whatever to clear himself of the habits of it in order that he might come with an open free mind to receive the lessons of God's word. A divine author, we say, must be simple. Are we sure that His simplicity is not the great obstacle to the discovery of His meaning by those who will spend no pains in seeking for it, who fancy that hasty and impatient conclusions which would be intolerable in the readers of another book, are reverent in the readers of this ?
Scriptural readers and commentators have insisted that the Mosaic history of Creation shall be the history of the formation of the material earth, though there is not a single sentence in which the slightest allusion is made to that formation. They have insisted that the week must refer to time as measured by the sun, though distinct words and the whole context of the discourse negative such a supposition. Now these are precisely the notions which set the record at variance with the conclusions of physical science. A geologist may not feel that he has any interest in getting rid of such notions, for he can pursue his inquiries without caring whether they clash with this book or no. But we have the greatest interest in getting rid of them, not in order to make peace with science, not even in order to assert the letter of Scripture, though both these objects are highly important, but because as long as these conceptions last we cannot enter into that idea of Creation which the Scripture is in every page bringing out before us—because we cannot feel the beauty of that order of the Universe which Moses was permitted to reveal to us ; because we shall be continually subjecting both the facts of the material world and the laws of the spiritual world to a hard and dry theory of ours, instead of rising gradually, by calm and humble investigations of nature and of God's word, to an apprehension of them and Him. And do not suppose that it is only now, in this 19th century, through the influence of civilization and scientific inquiry, that divines have been led to feel the mischief which may result from the rashness of interpreters of Scripture and apologists for Scripture, who set themselves in opposition to physical discoveries, even to physical speculations. It is a very disgraceful and pernicious thing, and one greatly to be watched against," says Augustine, that any infidel should hear a Christian talking wild nonsense about the earth and the heaven, about the motions and magnitude and intervals of the stars, the courses of years and times, the natures of animals, stones, and other matters of the same kind, pretending that he has the authority of the Scriptures on his side. The other who understands these things from reason or experience, seeing that the Christian is utterly igno
rant of the subject, that he is wide of the mark by a whole heaven, cannot refrain from laughter. What pain and sorrow these rash dogmatists cause to their wiser brethren, can scarcely be told; who, if they have been convicted of a foolish and false opinion by those who do not acknowledge the authority of our books, straightway produce these same sacred books, in proof of that which they have advanced with the most lightminded rashness and open falseness; nay, even quote from memory many words which they think will help out their case, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.'
So spoke one of the most devout, reverential, and at the same time most courageous expositors the Church has ever had, in his Commentary on the book of Genesis according to the letter. His words are strictly and minutely applicable to the present day. Only that the pride and sin of setting the language of Scripture against the investigation of Nature, is a thousand times greater when that investigation proceeds, not, as it did in his day, upon rash anticipations, but upon careful induction of particulars, and that the injury which is done to Scripture by such courses, is not merely or chiefly the laughter which they excite in others, but the contemptuous, self-exalting assurance which they nourish in the minds of those who indulge in them, an assurance that hinders them from attaining the faith of little children, as well as from rising to the intellectual stature of
There is one point to which I would allude before I quit this subject. You may think that if geological facts are not interfered with by this narrative, yet that it does, by its fundamental maxim as I have laid it down, interfere with the great astronomical principle which Newton affirmed and demonstrated, If Man is the highest object in the divine order, is it not most natural that he should look upon the earth as the centre round which all the heavenly bodies are revolving ? And does not the record of the fourth day's work seem to affirm that the sun and moon and stars exist to give light to our planet ? Unquestionably
a most natural conclusion for man to adopt. That he did adopt it everywhere is the proof how natural. But would you get rid of this natural tendency, by denying the plain fact to which every one's senses give testimony, that the sun and moon do perform ministeries for this earth, and that the whole economy of our earth is affected by those ministeries? Or would you get rid of it by denying the fact of which the human conscience testifies as strongly, that a creature endued with a will and a reason must be higher than all the things which his senses contemplate, which his mind can conceive of, that have not a will and a reason? Did any one ever free himself from the delusion that the earth was the centre of the universe, by either of these methods ? speculations about the sun or the moon, any re.verence for them, any worship of them, destroy this delusion? Were not all these means of strength
ening and deepening it in him? And how then can he, consistently with an acknowledgment of plain facts, consistently with the sense of the dignity and glory which has been put upon him, rise to the conviction, that neither the earth, nor he himself, can be looked upon as giving the law and order to Creation ?
I answer, he will rise to this conviction if he can be taught that he only realizes his own glory when he beholds it in God; if he can be taught that there are other creatures besides himself who share that distinction which separates him from all mere sentient and animal existences; if he can be taught upon whom it is that they and he and the whole order to which they belong depend. And these are just the lessons which these chapters of the book of Genesis open to us, and which the whole bible continues more and more clearly to impress upon us. The chapter we have read this afternoon exhibits the first man beginning to exercise the lordship over the animals which God had given to his race; beginning to realize the meaning of the words, male and female created he them ;' subjected to a restriction which told him that he was not an independent being, but made in the image of another. Next Sunday we shall hear how he trifled with that lordship, submitting to a creature whom he was meant to governhow the relation of fellowship was broken-how he set up independence in place of obedience. As we trace the nature and consequences of that act, we are taught more clearly than any words can