Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/289

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LITERARY NOTICES.

LITERARY NOTICES.

The Relations between Religion and Science. Eight Lectures preached before the University of Oxford in the Year ] 884, on the Foundation of the late Rev. John Bampton, M.A., Canon of Salisbury, by the Right Rev. Lord Bishop of Exeter. New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp. 252. Price, $1.50.

It is now upward of a century since the Rev. John Bampton bequeathed his lands and estates to the authorities of Oxford University, the income of which was to be used forever in paying for a course of eight annual sermons or lectures devoted to the following objects: "To confirm and establish the Christian faith, and to confute all heretics and schismatics; upon the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures; upon the authority of the writings of the primitive fathers, as to the faith and practice of the primitive Church; upon the divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; upon the divinity of the Holy Ghost; upon the Articles of the Christian Faith, as comprehended in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds."

If the well-intentioned founder of the celebrated Bampton Lectures could have foreseen what would be the result of a hundred years' experience in confirming the Christian faith and confuting heretics, according to the plan laid down, it is more than doubtful if he would have ventured upon the experiment. Had it been possible for him even to dream as to what sort of lectures his estate would pay for in one hundred and four years, he would have shrunk with horror from the awful result. For, although nothing more earnest or able or wise in defense of Christianity has been given by any of his predecessors than this last series of discussions by Dr. Temple, yet such has been the revolution of theological thought in a century that his book, if it had appeared in 1780, would have been execrated as the rankest conceivable infidelity. And yet, we repeat, no more skillful or powerful defense of fundamental Christian doctrine than these last Bampton Lectures has appeared in a long time. But the issues have been profoundly changed; and theological ground has been abandoned which a hundred years ago was regarded as the most essential part of the Christian faith.

There are of course plenty of living theologians who stick by the old—and the older the better—and with whom the intellectual progress of the last century goes for nothing. But among these the Bishop of Exeter does not belong. He is a liberal-minded, conscientious, and thoroughly trained thinker, who recognizes the tendencies and fully grasps the great results of modern scientific progress, which has opened a new world of truth to the human mind, and altered the point of view from which all the highest questions of human concernment are to be regarded. Instead of deploring the tendencies of advanced inquiry, and dreading the consequences of that deep and unwearying study of nature which characterizes our age, he regards it as something not to be reluctantly accepted, but to be welcomed and rejoiced in as the working out of a great providential dispensation. His lectures are characterized by this lofty and catholic spirit. They are widely contrasted in tone with that theological narrowness which has hitherto marked the controversial work of divines on the questions of the relations of religion and science.

We are here speaking of the temper and quality of Dr. Temple's work as a professed theologian, and not of the logical character of his argument. That will be regarded by many as in various points unsatisfactory. The work is highly instructive, and much important light is thrown on numerous points of controversy. But our chief interest in it is its striking significance in marking the progress of religious liberality. His attitude toward science is thoroughly untheological, using that term in its past and generally accepted sense. Dr. Temple professes his belief in miracles, but he declares that "Science can never, in its character of Science, admit that a miracle has happened." But he holds that all alleged miracles, on some possibly higher view yet to be reached, may disappear as miracles, and be shown conformed to a more enlarged view of the natural order. We may say generally that the force of his reasoning is derived from the present limitations and incompleteness of scientific truth.

It is especially noteworthy that the Lord Bishop of Exeter broadly accepts the doctrine of evolution. But it is not enough to