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The True Relations Of The Bible To Merely Human Science
by [?]

It is sometimes said, that a religious messenger from God does not come amongst men for the sake of teaching truths in science, or of correcting errors in science. Most justly is this said: but often in terms far too feeble. For generally these terms are such as to imply, that, although no direct and imperative function of his mission, it was yet open to him, as a permissible function–that, although not pressing with the force of an obligation upon the missionary, it was yet at his discretion–if not to correct other men’s errors, yet at least in his own person to speak with scientific precision. I contend that it was not. I contend, that to have uttered the truths of astronomy, of geology, etc., at the era of new- born Christianity, was not only below and beside the purposes of a religion, but would have been against them. Even upon errors of a far more important class than errors in science can ever be–superstitions, for instance, that degraded the very idea of God; prejudices and false usages, that laid waste human happiness (such as slavery, and many hundreds of other abuses that might be mentioned), the rule evidently acted upon by the Founder of Christianity was this–Given the purification of the well-head, once assumed that the fountains of truth are cleansed, all these derivative currents of evil will cleanse themselves. As a general rule, the branches of error were disregarded, and the roots only attacked. If, then, so lofty a station was taken with regard even to such errors as really had moral and spiritual relations, how much more with regard to the comparative trifles (as in the ultimate relations of human nature they are) of merely human science! But, for my part, I go further, and assert, that upon three reasons it was impossible for any messenger from God (or offering himself in that character) to have descended into the communication of truth merely scientific, or economic, or worldly. And the three reasons are these:–First, Because such a descent would have degraded his mission, by lowering it to the base level of a collusion with human curiosity, or (in the most favorable case) of a collusion with petty and transitory interests. Secondly, Because it would have ruined his mission, by disturbing its free agency, and misdirecting its energies, in two separate modes: first, by destroying the spiritual auctoritas (the prestige and consideration) of the missionary; secondly, by vitiating the spiritual atmosphere of his audience–that is, corrupting and misdirecting the character of their thoughts and expectations. He that in the early days of Christianity should have proclaimed the true theory of the solar system, or that by any chance word or allusion should then, in a condition of man so little prepared to receive such truths, have asserted or assumed the daily motion of the earth on its own axis, or its annual motion round the sun, would have found himself entangled at once and irretrievably in the following unmanageable consequences:–First of all, and instantaneously, he would have been roused to the alarming fact, that, by this dreadful indiscretion he himself, the professed deliverer of a new and spiritual religion, had in a moment untuned the spirituality of his audience. He would find that he had awakened within them the passion of curiosity–the most unspiritual of passions, and of curiosity in a fierce polemic shape. The very safest step in so deplorable a situation would be, instantly to recant. Already by this one may estimate the evil, when such would be its readiest palliation. For in what condition would the reputation of the teacher be left for discretion and wisdom as an intellectual guide, when his first act must be to recant–and to recant what to the whole body of his hearers would wear the character of a lunatic proposition. Such considerations might possibly induce him not to recant. But in that case the consequences are far worse. Having once allowed himself to sanction what his hearers regard as the most monstrous of paradoxes, he has no liberty of retreat open to him. He must stand to the promises of his own acts. Uttering the first truth of a science, he is pledged to the second; taking the main step, he is committed to all which follow. He is thrown at once upon the endless controversies which science in every stage provokes, and in none more than in the earliest. Starting, besides, from the authority of a divine mission, he could not (as others might) have the privilege of selecting arbitrarily or partially. If upon one science, then upon all; if upon science, then upon art; if upon art and science, then upon every branch of social economy his reformations and advances are equally due–due as to all, if due as to any. To move in one direction, is constructively to undertake for all. Without power to retreat, he has thus thrown the intellectual interests of his followers into a channel utterly alien to the purposes of a spiritual mission.