Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/772

This page has been validated.
752
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

occupied some of the best heads in Europe for the last century; and it is only of late years that their investigations have begun to converge toward one conclusion.[1]

That kind of faith which Dr. Wace describes and lauds is of no use here. Indeed, he himself takes pains to destroy its evidential value.

"What made the Mohammedan world? Trust and faith in the declarations and assurances of Mohammed. And what made the Christian world? Trust and faith in the declarations and assurances of Jesus Christ and his apostles" (loc. cit., p. 253). The triumphant tone of this imaginary catechism leads me to suspect that its author has hardly appreciated its full import. Presumably, Dr. Wace regards Mohammed as an unbeliever, or, to use the term which he prefers, infidel; and considers that his assurances have given rise to a vast delusion, which has led, and is leading, millions of men straight to everlasting punishment. And this being so, the "trust and faith" which have "made the Mohammedan world," in just the same sense as they have "made the Christian world," must be trust and faith in falsehood. No man who has studied history, or even attended to the occurrences of every-day life, can doubt the enormous practical value of trust and faith; but as little will he be inclined to deny that this practical value has not the least relation to the reality of the objects of that trust and faith. In examples of patient constancy of faith and of unswerving trust, the "Acta Martyrum" do not excel the annals of Babism.

The discussion upon which we have now entered goes so thoroughly to the root of the whole matter; the question of the day is so completely, as the author of "Robert Elsmere" says, the value of testimony, that I shall offer no apology for following it out somewhat in detail; and, by way of giving substance to the argument, I shall base what I have to say upon a case, the consideration of which lies strictly within the province of natural science, and of that particular part of it known as the physiology and pathology of the nervous system.

  1. Dr. Wace tells us, "It may be asked how far we can rely on the accounts we possess of our Lord's teaching on these subjects." And he seems to think the question appropriately answered by the assertion that it "ought to be regarded as settled by M. Renan's practical surrender of the adverse case." I thought I knew M. Renan's works pretty well, but I have contrived to miss this "practical" (I wish Dr. Wace had defined the scope of that useful adjective) surrender. However, as Dr. Wace can find no difficulty in pointing out the passage of M. Renan's writings, by which he feels justified in making his statement, I shall wait for further enlightenment, contenting myself, for the present, with remarking that if M. Renan were to retract and do penance in Notre Dame to-morrow for any contributions to Biblical criticism that may be specially his property, the main results of that criticism, as they are set forth in the works of Strauss, Baur, Reuss, and Volkmar, for example, would not be sensibly affected.