Page images

great Prophet is to arise, be compelled, in the mean time, to resort to the Heathenish acts of divination? Thus, we think, the Israelites might have most naturally and justly reasoned. When that Prophet should come they might not have understood. But it was fair to infer that, until his appearing, God would not leave them without that knowledge of divine things which was necessary to their well-being. In truth, the succession of prophets that preceded the Messiah, and spake of him, may be properly regarded as the early rays of that Sun of Righteousness that was preparing to rise on the world. As preparing the way for his advent, they were doubtless, in the mind of God, included in the promise, and the light which they shed upon the Israelitish people for many centuries, may be properly regarded as its incipient fulfilment.

Nearly in accordance with the above views are those of Hengstenberg, with which we close this article. " How then can the two suppositions, that Moses had the Messiah undeniably in view, and yet, that the prediction relates also to the prophets in general, be reconciled? Most naturally in the following man

Moses had Christ also here in view, though not merely in reference to his visible manifestation, but also his previous invisible influence likewise : comp. 1 Pet. 1:11, where the Spirit of Christ is said to have spoken through the prophets. Moses does not, indeed, speak of the prophets as a collective body, to which Christ also in the end incidentally belonged, as Calvin, and other commentators quoted above, supposed; but the propheti cal order appeared to him personified in Christ, in whom his idea of it was completely realized. There is then, here a reference to the other prophets also, not however as individuals, but in relation to that Spirit by which, though in an inferior degree, they were influenced, and made one with their head. They were contemplated in Christ, because they were merely his organs. His Spirit gave them being.”





By STEPHEN CHASE, Professor of Mathematics, Dartmouth College, N. H.

Truth is eternal. We talk of the discovery of new truths, and sing paans for the achievement, but they are new, only because we have been ignorant of them. They existed before: they had been known to exist–but not by us.

Columbus discovered America ; but it did not then, for the first time, exist. It had existed before: it had been known to exist, and, in boasting of the great discovery, men only proclaimed their own previous ignorance.

When we speak of a new property of matter, a new operation of nature, or a new principle in science, the novelty is in a previously unexperienced intellectual perception, not in a newly. created power in nature, or principle in science. Of all such discoveries, we may well say, "" The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be ; and that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already, of old time, which was before us." The ancients could form beautiful imaginings of the far-distant islands; or could conjure up horrible shapes and burning climes, beyond the ocean but our continent still remained beautiful, unknown to them, and unaffected by their opinions.

Our world has been affirmed to be, at one time, a boundless plain ; at another, a huge body in the shape of a pear. The sun has been held to be a light set in the firmament—the solid concave of the heavens ; "a greater light” indeed, but still only a “light to rule the day;" and, again, it has been a torch, lighted up in the morning, and extinguished at night in the western waves, to be re-kindled and re-extinguished in everlasting siccession. And one, who should have accurately described the earth and the sun, and shown their relation to each other, might have been charged with the promulgation of doctrines dangerous to the state, or injurious to religion with treason or blasphemy: and might have been torn in pieces by a mob, or burned by fanatics. Yet the truth would have been true; and would have been new only to ignorance, and dangerous 'only to error and imposture.

Truth is often dreaded; but never, to the honest man, dreadful. Its appearance is often strange to the ignorant, but itself is

not a novelty, nor its reception dangerous. Yet what truth was ever proposed, which was not, by some, denounced as dangerous, if not destructive, to the moral or the social, the bodily or the intellectual welfare of man.

We propose to discuss the safety of receiving truth, on whatever subject, and whenever presented ; and shall illustrate the subject, by alluding to some of the apprehensions which have been, at various times, entertained, of danger from the reception of truth; endeavoring to show the groundlessness of all such apprehensions, by arguments drawn from history, and from


We do not mean to assert that, when men have once admitted the truth of a proposition, they are afraid to receive it; but, that they will not admit its truth, because they dislike what they conceive to be its consequences; consequences, too, whose connexion with the dreaded doctrine is altogether imaginary. Or, if they be legitimate results of the doctrine, the danger which they fear may exist only in their imagination; and the consequences, however dangerous they may appear to our ignorance, may be perfectly consistent with all the teachings of science or of revelation.

In discussing this subject, we shall, in the first place, mention some of the examples, in which history abounds, of dread of truth; instances in which men have, from fear of consequences, refused to believe propositions which, in a very short time, were universally, and without a shadow of danger, acknowledged as established truths. Did space permit, we might adduce instances in almost every department of knowledge, whether physical, intellectual, moral, religious, or mathematical.

In these instances, a circumstance will be observed, which we shall discuss more fully hereafter, viz., that a false issue is presented ; an issue between the new doctrine and some acknowledged truth, and it is assumed, in the outset, that one or the other must fall; fall, too, not for want of evidence, but on account of the assumed inconsistency of the two doctrines.

The instance of this dread of truth, which, perhaps, most readily suggests itself to every mind that has reflected on the progress of truth, and the obstacles it has encountered in the minds of men, is the oft-cited case of Galileo. In alluding to his case, we do not wish to insist too strongly on the severity of the proceedings against him. Admit, that this severity has been over-rated; it is, moreover, possible—probable perhaps, that he had so much Italian duplicity, as not to be very deeply wounded by the attacks made upon him, and the violence put upon his conscience. Granting all this, and without, in any degree, palliating or excusing his want of firmness; yet the simple fact of his being summoned before the inquisition, to answer for opinions

which he held, and which he knew to be true, shows that they feared to believe that truth; that they feared to let it be true, and that they foolishly imagined, that their anathema, and his renunciation, could blot it out of existence.

They decided that the doctrine, " that the sun is the centre of the universe, and destitute of local motion, is a proposition absurd and false in philosophy, and heretical in form, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scripture.?*

Again, “ That the earth is not the centre of the universe, nor motionless, but that it has even a daily motion, is also a proposition absurd and false in philosophy, and, theologically considered, it is, at least, erroneous in faith.”+

One would think, that if these doctrines were absurd, their absurdity could be shown. But reason and philosophy could not be trusted. They did not, after all, believe that reason would pronounce the dreaded doctrines false. But, if they could not be proved false, they could be commanded to be so; and, if Galileo could not be convinced of their absurdity, he could be compelled to disavow them, or his voice could be silenced in death. He was, accordingly, required to renounce his propositions. And, with a sad combination of human frailty with Italian duplicity, he did declare, “with a sincere heart, and faith unfeigned, I abjure, execrate and detest the above named errors and heresies."I--But so strongly was he convinced of the truth he had just abjured, that, as it is said, “ at the moment when he arose" from his knees, on which he had pronounced this solemn renunciation, "indignant at having sworn, in violation of his firm conviction, he exclaimed, stamping his foot, “and yet it moves.”'S Upon this, he was sentenced to the dungeons of the Inquisition for an indefinite time, and every week for three years, was to repeat the seven penitential Psalms of David. His dialogue was prohibited, and his system condemned as contrary to the Bible. He was subsequently banished to the episcopal palace at Sienna, and, soon after, to the parish of Arceti near Florence.

This confinement may not have been of the severest kind; but it should be considered that he had noble friends, of whom, if the power was not dreaded, the influence was felt; and, moreover, that he does not seem to have possessed that firmness of character, which exposes men to the utmost rigor of persecution.

* “ Solem esse in centro mundi, et immobilem motu locali, propositio absurda, et falsa in pbilosophia, et formaliter hæterica; quia est expresse contraria Sacræ Scripturæ.”

† “ Terram non esse centrum mundi, nec immobilem, sed moveri motu etiam diurno, est etiam propositio absurda et falsa in philosophia, et, theologia considerata, ad minus erronea in fide."

Corde sincero, et fide non ficta, a bjuro, maledico, et detestor superdictos. ♡ E pur simuove ! errores et paereses—was part of the formula which he was compelled to pronounce.

His persecutors seem to have supposed that those momentous truths, which he had discovered, were buried in his mind, as in the grave; and that, if he could be prevented from communicating them, they would cease to exist. They thought, doubtless, ihat the Bible was now established on a sure foundation ; but what a foundation !-a foundation of ignorance and falsehood! The language of a writer in the Edinburgh Encyclopædia, on this subject, is severe but not unjust : “ What a mortifying proof,” he remarks, “of human infirmity on the one hand, and of atrocious presumption on the other ! A venerable old man, turned of seventy, with his head silvered over by the study of Nature, disavowing against reason and conscience, the great truths which he had published to the world, and which shone forth in every part of those heavens to which he appealed! An assembly of reverend cardinals, encircling the aged philosopher on his knees,'fixing the laws and arrangements of Nature, repressing the great truths which she unfolded, and condemning to perpetual imprisonment the venerable sage who first disclosed to man the unexplored regions of boundless space !"

Nor was opposition made to the discoveries of Galileo on theological grounds only. All the metaphysical acumen of that "age of faith and of intellectual giants" was arrayed against the teachings of science and of nature. Nichol says, 66 Galileo and his telescope were hated, and with most perfect sincerity his opponent would not even look through that glass; and, i believe, the mere sight of it had as terrifying an influence over learned Academicians, as the musket of Cortes over the Mexicans.”

“ The learned divan of Europe flew back most resolutely on metaphysics, and would have nothing whatever to do with the evidence of the senses. The discovery of the Satellites especially .... was a heresy, which ought, above all things to be put down. Francesco Sizzi, an astronomer of no mean note, and a townsman of Galileo's, thus gravely, and impressively delivered himself: "There are seven windows given to animals in the domicile of the head, through which the air is admitted to the tabernacle of the body, to enlighten, to warm, and nourish it; which windows are the principal parts of the microcosm or little world ; two nostrils, two eyes, two ears and one mouth-so in the heavens as in a microcosm or great world, there are two favorable stars, (Jupiter and Venus), two unpropitious (Mars and Saturn), two luminaries (the Sun and Moon), and Mercury alone undecided and indifferent. From which and many other phenomena of Nature, such as the seven metals, &c., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather, that the number of planets is necessarily seven. Moreover, the Satellites are invisible to the naked eye, and therefore can exercise no influence over the earth, and therefore would be useless, and there

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »