Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/15

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5
THE NATURAL VERSUS THE SUPERNATURAL.

The mind that has fully opened to this perception no longer divorces its faith from its reason, no longer rests in the idea of a dualism in creation or opposition between God and the world, and can not feel at ease until its religious belief is in harmony with its natural knowledge. The two must not be at war. What we hope for, what we aspire to, must be consistent with what we know. Faith and science must, indeed, go hand in hand. The conception of religion as a miraculous scheme for man's redemption interpolated into history, God's original design with reference to man having miscarried, is entirely undermined and overthrown by the perception of the unity and consistency of creation as revealed by science.

Who does not see that it adds vastly to the credibility of a doctrine or theory to find that it fits in with other things, that it is not an exception or an isolated circumstance, but is in a line with facts and principles of the truth of which we are already assured? Suppose the theory of Christianity, as popularly held, had something like the breadth of application, or the same warrant and basis in the constitution of things as has, say, the theory of evolution or the doctrine of the conservation of energy; or suppose the dogma of vicarious atonement pleased the mind and harmonized with our sense of the fitness of creation like the modern doctrine of embryology, namely, that embryology is a repetition of past history, that every animal in its development from the egg assumes successively, though briefly, all the forms through which its ancestors have come in the course of the long stretch of geological ages, should we not all at once accept it as true? Would there ever have been any doubters and skeptics? I think not. It is because these things have no such warrant and basis, no such agreement with our perception of the order of the world, that doubters and skeptics exist; it is because they break completely with all the rest of our knowledge of creation.

There is a very marked activity in the theological mind of to-day which has for its end the bridging over of the gulf which exists between natural and what is called "revealed" truth. Half a dozen recent works might be named of which this is the principal aim. That eloquent preacher, Frederick W. Robinson, sought in one of his sermons to give a natural basis to the dogma of vicarious sacrifice, perhaps the most incredible dogma in the popular creed. See, says the eloquent divine, how the mineral must decay before the vegetable can grow; how the vegetable must die before the animal can live; how the animal must perish before we can have roast beef for our dinner. The dove is stricken down by the hawk, the deer by the lion, the winged fish falls into the jaws of the dolphin. "It is the solemn law of vicarious sacrifice again"; and so still higher. "The anguish of the mother is the condition of the child's life." Every civilization is founded upon the labors and sufferings of those who went before. When this law of self-sacrifice is consciously obeyed it becomes the