Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/61

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51
SCIENCE AND REVELATION.

ly impressed with the truth of certain things which lie outside the discoveries of reason or the investigations of science, and which bear on the whole conduct of his life here, and on his hopes regarding life hereafter. He believes these truths to be divine, and, accordingly, that no legitimate deduction of human reason is liable to come in conflict with them. But the precise mode in which a conviction of the truth of these things was arrived at depends, to a considerable extent, on each man's idiosyncrasy. His natural bent of mind, his early training, his later associations, have all a good deal to do with it. Divine truth is one thing; our own apprehension of it, and the steps by which in our own minds it has been arrived at, are another. These are liable to human imperfection, and we may not attribute to them the infallibility which belongs to that which is divine. We are not to confound the scaffolding with the building; nor, if we are anxious for the safety of the edifice, need we therefore fear that, if the scaffolding were tampered with, the whole might come tumbling down, nor should we regard as a dynamiter a fellow-workman who would remove a pole or two.

That truth must be self-consistent, come from where it may, is an axiom which nobody would dispute; the only question can be, What is truth? Now, there are truths which we know by intuition, such as the axioms of mathematics; and there are others, again, which, though we do not perceive them by intuition, yet demonstrably follow from what we do so perceive; such, for example, are the propositions of mathematics. Then there are other conclusions which we accept as the result of the application of our reason to a study of Nature. Here the evidence is not demonstrative, and the conclusion may have all degrees of support, from such overwhelming evidence as that on which we accept universal gravitation, to what hardly raises the conclusion above the rank of a conjecture. On the other hand, there are conclusions which we accept on totally different grounds; namely, because we think that they have been revealed. Why we accept a revelation at all, is a very wide question which I can not here enter into. That we do accept it is implied in the membership of this Institute. But, granting the acceptance of revelation, the question remains, What and how much is involved in revelation? That is a question respecting which there are differences of opinion among those who frankly accept a revelation, and with it the supernatural.

Now, the primary object of the establishment of the Victoria Institute was to examine the questions as to which there was a prima facie appearance of conflict between the conclusions of science and the teachings of revelation. In order that such examination may be usefully carried out, it must be undertaken in a thoroughly impartial spirit, with a readiness honestly to follow truth wherever it may lead. It will not do to assume that the immunity from error which belongs to the divine belongs also to our apprehension of what constitutes the