God's will to man for his moral guidance, if necessary at all, was necessary before the rise of natural science. Men could not, more especially, do without some knowledge of the unity of God and the unity of Nature until these great truths should be worked out by scientific induction. Perhaps they might never have been so worked out; therefore, a revealed "book of origins" has a right to precedence in this matter. Nor need it in any way come into conflict with the science subsequently to grow up. Science does not deal so much with the origin of Nature as with its method and laws; and all that is necessary on the part of a revelation to avoid conflict with it is to confine itself to the statement of phenomena and to avoid hypotheses. This is eminently the course of the Bible. In its cosmogony it shuns all embellishments and details, and contents itself with the fact of creation and a slight sketch of its order; and the sacred writers in their subsequent references to Nature are strictly phenomenal in their statements, and refer everything directly to the will of God, without any theory as to secondary causes or relations. They are thus decided and positive on the points with reference to which it behooves revelation to testify, and non-committal on the points which belong to the exclusive domain of science.
What, then, are we to say of the imaginary "conflict of science and religion" of which so much has been made? Simply, that it results largely from misapprehension and misuse of terms. True religion, which consists in practical love to God and to our fellow-men, can have no conflict with true science. They are fast allies. The Bible, considered as a revelation of spiritual truth to man for his salvation and enlightenment, can have no conflict with science. It promotes the study of Nature, rendering it honorable by giving it the dignity of an inquiry into the ways of God, and rendering it safe by separating it from all ideas of magic and necromancy. It gives a theological sanction to the ideas of the unity of Nature and of natural law. The actual conflict of science, when historically analyzed, is fourfold: 1. With the Church; 2. With theology; 3. With superstition; 4. With false or imperfect science and philosophy. Religious men have, no doubt, from time to time identified themselves with these opponents, but that is all; and much more frequently the opposition has been by unwise or bad men, more or less, it may be, professing religious objects.
Organizations styling themselves "the Church," and whose warrant from the Bible is often of the slenderest, have denounced and opposed new scientific truths, and persecuted their upholders; but they have just as often denounced the Bible itself, and religious doctrines founded on it.
Theology claims to be itself one of the sciences, and as such it is necessarily imperfect and progressive, and may at any time be more or less in conflict with other sciences. But theology is not religion,