Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/279

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

university do not look like it. Let us test your claim by reference to that religious doctrine which is here regarded as of leading importance. The lowest and most rudimentary form of intelligence undoubtedly relates to numbers. No human beings have ever been found so incapable that they could not count a little, if no more than three or four fingers. At the very dawn of intelligence there must arise a perception of the difference between one object and two or three objects. Knowledge may be said to begin here, and, as it agrees with all experience, it is beyond all other knowledge exact, fundamental, and sure. Now, when you undertake to rise above nature and experience, and pass into the realm beyond, what success have you in the application of your primary numerical ideas? Is the infinite object of worship one, two, three, or twenty? Our students are divided over the question; and the fluctuations that are observed in regard to it do not favor the notion that it rests on real knowledge. The mass of our students are not agnostics. They say they know. But, while 214 of them declare that the Divine Being is a unit, 589 of the rest deny this simple proposition, and say that the Divine Being is three or something like it. Since the third century the Church has been quarreling over the application of the most elementary arithmetic to the object of divine worship, and the swaying of opinion now indicated in Harvard University shows that the question is just as unsettled as ever. But if men can not agree in applying the very first and simplest steps of numeration in the transcendental sphere, can they be said to have any real 'knowledge' of it, and how can they succeed better in the application of higher ideas?"

But our Harvard agnostic pushes the case still further. He can say: "We have among us 275 Episcopalians, who, with the other orthodox students, make up 589 professed Trinitarians. They are not agnostics, because they 'know' about this matter; and they are not Unitarians, because they are certain that hypothesis implies a false application of primary arithmetic in the premises. They reject the idea of unity applied to the Deity as false, and condemn it as wicked, and maintain that the true hypothesis is that of tri-personality, or of three Divine persons in the Godhead. But when any one of the '589' is pushed a little to explain himself, and make his alleged 'knowledge' clear, he says, 'Forbear! it is a great mystery, above poor human reason,' and that we are not required to understand it. But that is rank agnosticism! A mystery is simply that which can not be known. So our Trinitarians, who begin by declaring their 'knowledge' of the Divine nature, when cross-questioned, take a ready refuge in the unknowable."




The great movement of the century to modernize education, and make it conform to the progress of knowledge, is most conspicuously illustrated in England. An old, vigorous, advancing nation, leading in the multifarious work of civilization, and at the same time dominated by conservative habits, and maintaining two ancient, rich, and powerful universities, rooted in the most venerable traditions, England has been well situated for the display of those important changes in which educational progress consists. The tendency of the old universities was to check the growth of thought by a slavish devotion to the learning of antiquity. The spirit of the modern study of nature penetrated them but slowly. Bacon protested against scholastic verbalism, and called men back from the study of words to the study of things. The progress was outside of England's great seats of learning; and, when it had become palpable that they were behind the age and