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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/371

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357
SCIENCE AND THE BISHOPS.

what is called genius, whether it show itself in the saint, the artist, or the man of science. One calls it faith, another calls it inspiration, a third calls it insight; but the "intending of the mind," to borrow Newton's well-known phrase, the concentration of all the rays of intellectual energy on some one point, until it glows and colors the whole cast of thought with its peculiar light, is common to all.

I take it that the Bishop of Manchester has psychological science with him when he insists upon the subjective efficacy of prayer in faith, and on the seemingly miraculous effects which such intending of the mind upon religious and moral ideals may have upon character and happiness. Scientific faith, at present, takes it no further than the prayer which Ajax offered; but that petition is continually granted.

Whatever points of detail may yet remain open for discussion, however, I repeat the opinion I have already expressed that the Manchester sermons concede all that science has an indisputable right, or any pressing need, to ask, and that not grudgingly but generously; and, if the three bishops of 1887 carry the Church with them, I think they will have as good title to the permanent gratitude of posterity as the famous seven who went to the Tower in defense of the Church two hundred years ago.

Will their brethren follow their just and prudent guidance? I have no such acquaintance with the currents of ecclesiastical opinion as would justify me in even hazarding a guess on such a difficult topic. But some recent omens are hardly favorable. There seems to be an impression abroad—I do not desire to give any countenance to it that I am fond of reading sermons. From time to time, unknown correspondents—some apparently animated by the charitable desire to promote my conversion, and others unmistakably anxious to spur me to the expression of wrathful antagonism—favor me with reports or copies of such productions.

I found one of the latter category among the accumulated arrears to which I have already referred.

It is a full, and apparently accurate, report of a discourse by a person of no less ecclesiastical rank than the three authors of the sermons I have hitherto been considering; but who he is, and where or when the sermon was preached, are secrets which wild horses shall not tear from me, lest I fall again under high censure for attacking a clergyman. Only if the editor of this Review thinks it his duty to have independent evidence that the sermon has a real existence, will I, in the strictest confidence, communicate it to him.

The preacher, in this case, is of a very different mind from the three bishops—and this mind is different in quality, different in spirit, and different in contents. He discourses on the a priori objections to miracles, apparently without being aware, in spite of all the discussions of the last seven or eight years, that he is doing battle with a shadow.