Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/143

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
131
MARTINEAU AND MATERIALISM.

exercise, is virtually the undeveloped brain of the child. And thus it is that as children in scientific knowledge, but as potent wielders of spiritual power among the ignorant, they countenance and enforce practices sufficient to bring the blush of shame to the cheeks of the more intelligent among themselves.

Such is the force of early education, when maintained and perpetuated by the habits of subsequent life; such the ground of peril in allowing the schools of a nation to fall into ultramontane hands. Let any able Catholic student, fairly educated, and not yet cramped by sacerdotalism, get a real scientific grasp of the magnitude and organization of this universe. Let him sit under the immeasurable heavens, watch the stars in their courses, scan the mysterious nebulæ, and try to realize what it all is and means. Let him bring the thoughts and conceptions which thus enter his mind face to face with the notions of the genesis and rule of things which pervade the writings of the princes of his Church, and he will see and feel what drivelers even men of strenuous intellect may become, through exclusively dwelling and dealing with theological chimeras.

But, quitting the more grotesque forms of the theological, I already see, or think I see, emerging from recent discussions, that wonderful plasticity of the theistic idea, which enables it to maintain, through many changes, its hold upon superior minds; and which, if it is to last, will eventually enable it to shape itself in accordance with scientific conditions. I notice this, for instance, in the philosophic sermon of Dr. Quarry, and more markedly still in that of Dr. Ryder. "There pervades," says the Rector of Donnybrook, these atoms and that illimitable universe, that 'choir of heaven and furniture of earth,' which of such atoms is built up, a certain force, known in its most familiar form by the name of 'life,' which may be regarded as the ultimate essence of matter, And, speaking of the awful search of the intellect for the infinite Creator, and of the grave difficulties which encompass the subject, the same writer says: "We know from our senses finite existences only. Now we cannot logically infer the existence of an infinite God from the greatest conceivable number of finite existences. There must always obviously be more in the conclusion than in the premises." Such language is new to the pulpit, but it will become less and less rare. It is not the poets and philosophers among our theologians—and in our day the philosopher who wanders beyond the strict boundary of Science is more or less merged in the poet—it is not these, who feel the life of religion, but the mechanics, who cling to its scaffolding, that are most anxious to tie the world down to the untenable conceptions of an uncultivated past.

Before me is another printed sermon of a different character from those just referred to. It is entitled "The Necessary Limits of Christian Evidences." Its author. Dr. Reichel, has been frequently referred to as an authority, particularly on personal subjects, during recent