Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/37

This page has been validated.

That the full outcome of these discoveries has not yet been reached there can be no doubt. Speculation in such matters is easy; but facts developed are sufficiently wonderful to command deepest admiration, without conjecture as to future possibilities.

By the Right Rev. the LORD BISHOP OF CARLISLE.

AN elderly clergyman, dying some years ago in the east of London, bequeathed his silver spoons and the like to his nephews and nieces. But the spoons could nowhere be found. Ultimately they were discovered in a closet beneath a pile of sermons; the good clergyman having, for the sake of safety, chosen for his little stock of plate the place in which, as he imagined, it was most likely to be permitted to remain undisturbed.

I fear that I committed a mistake not long since by doing something analogous to that which was done by him whose providence I have just now chronicled, though with a different intention. I printed, in the form of an Appendix to a volume of "Oxford and Cambridge Sermons," a note on "Matter," for some portion of which, at least, I should like to crave more consideration than perhaps it has already received. The following paragraph contains the thought which I wish just now to put before the reader and to develop in this essay:

"I have referred to Cudworth's discussion of theories of matter with regard to the possible atheistic tendencies of some of them; and the time has not gone by, perhaps it never will, when the fear of atheism, as growing out of physical theories, will have ceased to exist. I am by no means prepared to say that there is no ground for such fear; but I think that some portion at least of the danger of science being found to have atheistic tendencies would be got rid of, if a clearer view could be obtained of the manner in which it is possible to establish a connection between physical theories and atheistic conclusions. It seems to me that we want a new word to express the fact that all physical science, properly so called, is compelled by its very nature to take no account of the being of God: as soon as it does this, it trenches upon theology, and ceases to be physical science. If I might coin a word, I should say that science was atheous, and therefore could not be atheistic; that is to say, its investigations and reasonings are by agreement conversant simply with observed facts and conclusions drawn from them, and in this sense it is atheous, or without recognition of God. And, because it is so, it does not in any way trench upon theism or theology, and can not be atheistic, or in the condition of denying the being of God. Take the case of physical astronomy.