philosophical, and irreligious manner in which sacred subjects and questions are lugged into this controversy.
Science deals only with the laws of Nature, with secondary causes only, and can never extend to first and final causes; not that these are denied, not that the supernatural is contemned, either explicitly or by implication; he is a shallow scientist that will do so; on the contrary, the supernatural, in its true sense and position, will be assumed—the supernatural that which is above—a higher than Nature, not contrary thereto, nor ever to be separated from it. "Within Nature, but not included; without, but not excluded; above it, but not taken away; underneath, and not a mere support, nor derived from it." Yet it is well, and even necessary, to be sure of a safe footing upon the earth, before we lift our eyes unreservedly to the heavens.
Socrates once desired to see the day "when Nature would be explained by reason alone." This is the end and aim of all philosophy: to render all we see, and know, and think, and do, rational; to obtain rational conceptions for all things. But, remember what explanation is. No explanation removes all difficulties; solves all mysteries. Properly considered, none pretends to such a thing. Explanations only connect the unknown with the better known; the less familiar with the more familiar; new, unarranged phenomena, or ideas, with old classified facts. All classification, all science, consists of this correlation of ideas.
Now, if the scientist confines himself to the correlation of physical facts, he cannot encroach upon the domain of religion, which is devoted to supernatural beliefs and hopes; yet a skeptical religionist is always craving for some physical facts to strengthen his faith, and the superstitious scientist is always afraid of meeting with miracles. How utterly both are mistaken! No amount of wonders would impart faith to a soul already filled with doubt; nor would the scientist have the least alarm on the subject of miracles and cataclysms if he understood truly the finite and the infinite, the Creator and the creation, the reign of eternal and universal law! In going around the circle of mere cosmical relations, time and space, man finds himself bounded by the great impassable and incomprehensible Unconditioned—eternity—ubiquity. And in vain the half-learned, and all not fond of exertion, because they cannot easily comprehend the relations of the finite and the infinite, rush to the conclusion that they are in conflict, and irreconcilable; so that, in the popular mind, the human and the divine, reason and the imagination, our doubts, and hopes, and fears, have become much entangled, and like "sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harshly."
It has been beautifully remarked of the perplexing contradictions
- "Supernaturale igitur, perficit quidem et elevat Naturam, non vero illi contrarium esse potest" (The supernatural perfects and elevates Nature, but cannot be contrary thereto). (Branchereau, "Ontology," §11, p. 6.)