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If there is any truth in the old adage that a burnt child dreads the fire, I ought to be very loth to touch a sermon while the memory of what befell me on a recent occasion, possibly not yet forgotten by the readers of this Review, is uneffaced. But I suppose that even the distinguished censor of that unheard-of audacity to which not even the newspaper report of a sermon is sacred, can hardly regard a man of science as either indelicate or presumptuous, if he ventures to offer some comments upon three discourses, specially addressed to the great assemblage of men of science which recently gathered at Manchester, by three bishops of the State Church. On my return to England not long ago, I found a pamphlet containing a version, which I presume to be authorised, of these sermons, among the huge mass of letters and papers which had accumulated during two months' absence; and I have read them not only with attentive interest, but with a feeling of satisfaction which is quite new to me as a result of hearing or reading sermons. These excellent discourses, in fact, appear to me to signalise a new departure in the course adopted by theology towards science, and to indicate the possibility of bringing about an honourable modus vivendi between the two. How far the three bishops speak as accredited representatives of the Church is a question to be considered by-and-by. Most assuredly,

I am not authorised to represent any one but myself. But I suppose that there must be a good many people in the Church of the bishops' way of thinking; and I have reason to believe that in the ranks of science there are a good many persons who, more or less, share my views. And it is to these sensible people on both sides, as the bishops and I must needs think those who agree with us, that my present observations are addressed. They will probably be astonished to learn how insignificant, in principle, their differences are.

It is impossible to read the discourses of the three prelates without being impressed by the knowledge which they display, and

1 The Advance of Science. Three sermons preached in Manchester Cathedral on Sunday, September 4, 1887, during the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, by the Bishop of Carlisle, the Bishop of Bedford, and the Bishop of Manchester.

by the spirit of equity, I might say of generosity, towards science which pervades them. There is no trace of that tacit or open assumption that the rejection of theological dogmas, on scientific grounds, is due to moral perversity, which is the ordinary note of ecclesiastical homilies on this subject, and which makes them look so supremely silly to men whose lives have been spent in wrestling with these questions. There is no attempt to hide away real stumblingblocks under rhetorical stucco; no resort to the tu quoque device of setting scientific blunders against theological errors; no suggestion that an honest man may keep contradictory beliefs in separate pockets of his brain; no question that the method of scientific investigation is valid, whatever the results to which it may lead; and that the search after truth, and truth only, ennobles the searcher and leaves no doubt that his life, at any rate, is worth living. The Bishop of Carlisle declares himself pledged to the belief that the advancement of science, the progress of human knowledge, is in itself a worthy aim of the greatest effort of the greatest minds.'


How often was it my fate, a quarter of a century ago, to see the whole artillery of the pulpit brought to bear upon the doctrine of evolution and its supporters! Any one unaccustomed to the amenities of ecclesiastical controversy would have thought we were too wicked to be permitted to live. But let us hear the Bishop of Bedford. After a perfectly frank statement of the doctrine of evolution and some of its obvious consequences, that learned prelate pleads, with all earnestness, against

a hasty denunciation of what may be proved to have at least some elements of truth in it, a contemptuous rejection of theories which we may some day learn to accept as freely and with as little sense of inconsistency with God's word as we now accept the theory of the earth's motion round the sun, or the long duration of the geological epochs (p. 28).

I do not see that the most convinced evolutionist could ask any one, whether cleric or layman, to say more than this; in fact, I do not think that any one has a right to say more with respect to any question about which two opinions can be held, than that his mind is perfectly open to the force of evidence.

There is another portion of the Bishop of Bedford's sermon which I think will be warmly appreciated by all honest and clear-headed men. He repudiates the views of those who say that theology and


occupy wholly different spheres, and need in no way intermeddle with each other. They revolve, as it were, in different planes, and so never meet. Thus we may pursue scientific studies with the utmost freedom and, at the same time, may pay the most reverent regard to theology, having no fears of collision, because allowing no points of contact (p. 29).

Surely every unsophisticated mind will heartily concur with the Bishop's remark upon this convenient refuge for the descendants of

Mr. Facing-both-ways. I have never been able to understand this position, though I have often seen it assumed.' Nor can any demurrer be sustained when the Bishop proceeds to point out that there are, and must be, various points of contact between theological and natural science, and therefore that it is foolish to ignore or deny the existence of as many dangers of collision.

Finally, the Bishop of Manchester freely admits the force of the objections which have been raised, on scientific grounds, to prayer, and attempts to turn them by arguing that the proper objects of prayer are not physical but spiritual. He tells us that natural accidents and moral misfortunes are not to be taken for moral judgments of God; he admits the propriety of the application of scientific methods to the investigation of the origin and growth of religions; and he is as ready to recognise the process of evolution there as in the physical world. Mark the following striking passage:

And how utterly all the common objections to Divine revelation vanish away when they are set in the light of this theory of a spiritual progression. Are we reminded that there prevailed, in those earlier days, views of the nature of God and man, of human life and Divine Providence, which we now find to be untenable ? That, we answer, is precisely what the theory of development presupposes. If early views of religion and morality had not been imperfect, where had been the development? If symbolical visions and mythical creations had found no place in the early Oriental expression of Divine truth, where had been the development? The sufficient answer to ninety-nine out of a hundred of the ordinary objections to the Bible, as the record of a Divine education of our race, is asked in that one word -development. And to what are we indebted for that potent word, which, as with the wand of a magician, has at the same moment so completely transformed our knowledge and dispelled our difficulties? To modern science, resolutely pursuing its search for truth in spite of popular obloquy and-alas! that one should have to say it-in spite too often of theological denunciation (p. 53).

Apart from its general importance, I read this remarkable statement with the more pleasure, since, however imperfectly I may have endeavoured to illustrate the evolution of theology in a paper published in this Review last year, it seems to me that in principle, at any rate, I may hereafter claim high theological sanction for the views there set forth.

If theologians are henceforward prepared to recognise the authority of secular science in the manner and to the extent indicated in the Manchester trilogy; if the distinguished prelates who offer these terms are really plenipotentiaries, then, so far as I may presume to speak on such a matter, there will be no difficulty about concluding a perpetual treaty of peace, and indeed of alliance, between the high contracting powers, whose history has hitherto been little more than a record of continual warfare. But if the great Chancellor's maxim, 'Do ut des,' is to form the basis of negotiation, I am afraid that secular science will be ruined; for it seems to

me that theology, under the generous impulse of a sudden conversion, has given all that she hath; and indeed, on one point, has surrendered more than can reasonably be asked.

I suppose I must be prepared to face the reproach which attaches to those who criticise a gift, if I venture to observe that I do not think that the Bishop of Manchester need have been so much alarmed as he evidently has been, by the objections which have often been raised to prayer, on the ground that a belief in the efficacy of prayer is inconsistent with a belief in the constancy of the order of nature.

The Bishop appears to admit that there is an antagonism between the 'regular economy of nature' and the 'regular economy of prayer' (p. 39), and that 'prayers for the interruption of God's natural order' are of 'doubtful validity' (p. 42). It appears to me that the Bishop's difficulty simply adds another example to those which I have several times insisted upon in the pages of this Review and elsewhere, of the mischief which has been done, and is being done, by a mistaken apprehension of the real meaning of natural order' and 'law of nature.'

May I, therefore, be permitted to repeat, once more, that the statements denoted by these terms have no greater value or cogency than such as may attach to generalisations from experience of the past, and to expectations for the future based upon that experience? Nobody can presume to say what the order of nature must be; all that the widest experience (even if it extended over all past time and through all space) that events had happened in a certain way could justify, would be a proportionally strong expectation that events will go on so happening, and the demand for a proportional strength of evidence in favour of any assertion that they had happened otherwise.

It is this weighty consideration, the truth of which every one who is capable of logical thought must surely admit, which knocks the bottom out of all à priori objections either to ordinary 'miracles' or to the efficacy of prayer, in so far as the latter implies the miraculous intervention of a higher power. No one is entitled to say à priori that any given so-called miraculous event is impossible; and no one is entitled to say à priori that prayer for some change in the ordinary course of nature cannot possibly avail.

The supposition that there is any inconsistency between the acceptance of the constancy of natural order and a belief in the efficacy of prayer, is the more unaccountable as it is obviously contradicted by analogies furnished by everyday experience. The belief in the efficacy of prayer depends upon the assumption that there is somebody, somewhere, who is strong enough to deal with the earth and its contents as men deal with the things and events which they are strong enough to modify or control; and who is capable of being moved by appeals such as men make to one another. This belief does

not even involve theism; for our earth is an insignificant particle of the solar system, while the solar system is hardly worth speaking of in relation to the All; and, for anything that can be proved to the contrary, there may be beings endowed with full powers over our system, yet, practically, as insignificant as ourselves in relation to the universe. If any one pleases, therefore, to give unrestrained liberty to his fancy, he may plead analogy in favour of the dream that there may be, somewhere, a finite being, or beings, who can play with the solar system as a child plays with a toy; and that such being may be willing to do anything which he is properly supplicated to do. For we are not justified in saying that it is impossible for beings having the nature of men, only vastly more powerful, to exist; and if they do exist, they may act as and when we ask them to do so, just as our brother men act. As a matter of fact, the great mass of the human race has believed, and still believes, in such beings, under the various names of fairies, gnomes, angels, and demons. Certainly I do not lack faith in the constancy of natural order. But I am not less convinced that if I were to ask the Bishop of Manchester to do me a kindness which lay within his power, he would do it. And I am unable to see that his action on my request involves any violation of the order of nature. On the contrary, as I have not the honour to know the Bishop personally, my action would be based upon my faith in that 'law of nature,' or generalisation from experience, which tells me that, as a rule, men who occupy the Bishop's position are kindly and courteous. How is the case altered if my request is preferred to some imaginary superior being, or to the Most High Being, who, by the supposition, is able to arrest disease, or make the sun stand still in the heavens, just as easily as I can stop my watch, or make it indicate any hour that pleases me?

I repeat that it is not upon any à priori considerations that objections, either to the supposed efficacy of prayer in modifying the course of events, or to the supposed occurrence of miracles, can be scientifically based. The real objection, and, to my mind, the fatal objection, to both these suppositions, is the inadequacy of the evidence to prove any given case of such occurrences which has been adduced. It is a canon of common sense, to say nothing of science, that the more improbable a supposed occurrence, the more cogent ought to be the evidence in its favour. I have looked somewhat carefully into the subject, and I am unable to find in the records of any miraculous event evidence which even approximates to the fulfilment of this requirement.

But, in the case of prayer, the Bishop points out a most just and necessary distinction between its effect on the course of nature outside ourselves and its effect within the region of the supplicator's mind.

It is a law of nature,' verifiable by everyday experience, that our already formed convictions, our strong desires, our intent occupa

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