Графични страници
PDF файл

sidered not as a teaching, but as a believing body, has a much wider field of speculation and authority. She has a general sentiment, or mind, which takes up and assimilates the received philosophies of ages and nations. In the minds of the body of believers these philosophies combine into one organic whole with theology ; theology has laid hold of their former opinions, has reformed them, reorganised them, and given them new life, new bearings, new objects. This organised whole forms the Christian mind of the period; it is the rule of men's thoughts, and the ground of the education of the young. For a private individual, on the ground of a theory as yet undemonstrated, to break up this whole, and to attempt a general redistribution of its parts, is at all times scandalous; but doubly so at a period of a general upsetting of old convictions, of destruction of old grounds of belief, such as was the period of Galileo. It is in reference to this scandal, in reference to the harm it might do, not in reference to the intrinsic truth or falsehood of a proposition, that the Congregations in question are called upon to pronounce.

If, then, in decrees of these Congregations there are found definitions of faith, which have not been promulgated as such by the general consent of pastors, nor by a general council, nor by the Pope ex cathedra, we must conclude that such definitions do not belong to theology as a pure science, to the theology of the teaching Church, but to the theology of the believing Church, or to that organic whole which is composed of theology and philosophy combined. But the truth of this whole is not de fide; it consists of pure theology, which is infallibly true, and of a philosophy which may very easily be false. So that if, as was the case in the times of Galileo, the system of Aristotle is mixed up with theology, there results a system which is not wholly true, but which is nevertheless the ground of education, the rule of the received mode of thinking, the refutation of which, or its sudden break up, might easily result in the wreck of the faith itself in many minds. Hence practically this organic whole, composed of theology and philosophy, becomes identified with the faith itself; to defend it, is to preserve the faith; to controvert it, is to undermine the faith; and to put forth a new system inconsistent with its truth, is to assert things which must be called false in philosophy, heretical in faith, and contrary to the Holy Scriptures, as tending to degrade them in the estimation of the people.

We have no doubt that this was the meaning intended by the Congregations; and to this no Catholics will have a difficulty in subscribing. It was at that time and place exceedingly detrimental to the faith and to the estimation of the Scriptures violently to subvert the received peripatetic notions of the system of the world. Nevertheless, Galileo chose to act in this irreligious manner. We abridge Sir D. Brewster's account of the matter:

".Forgetting his pledges, he resolved to compose a work in which the Copernican system should be indirectly demonstrated. This work, The System of the World, was completed in 1630, but not published till 1632. Pope Urban VIII., though attached to Galileo, and friendly to science, was driven into a position from which he could not recede. . . . He brought the obnoxious work under the eye of the Inquisition, and Galileo was summoned before its tribunal. He arrived in Rome Feb. 14, 1633, and was visited by Cardinal Barberino, the Pope's nephew, and others, who, though they felt the necessity of ecclesiastical interference, were yet anxious that it should be done with the least injury to Galileo and to science,

“Early in April, when his examination in person took place, he had apartments in the house of the Fiscal of the Inquisition ; to make this nominal confinement as agreeable as possible, his table was provided by the Tuscan ambassador, and his servant was allowed to sleep in an adjoining apartment. However, as his health appeared to suffer, he was liberated on the 30th of April, after ten days confinement, and returned to the house of the Tuscan ambassador.”

After this Sir David proceeds:

“ It has been stated, on authority which is considered unquestionable, that during his personal examination Galileo was put to the torture, and that confessions were thus extorted which he had been unwilling to make.”

Admirable way of putting it! " It has been stated, on authority which is considered unquestionable !" Certainly we never saw a party insinuation made with more grace.

Sir David does not even tell us that he believes it. He does not tell us that the statement was simply an interpretation by Libri of a phrase used in the Decree of the Inquisition, which stated that Galileo had undergone a "rigorous examination;" because this " rigorous examination” usually in those days included torture ; but torture was never used except when persons obstinately refused to confess that which was considered to be proved against them; the “rigorous examination" was only the personal questioning, and might be satisfied either by a voluntary confession, or by a confession extorted by the threats of torture ; or lastly, by a confession made under torture : and certainly Galileo can have been no philosopher, if he made any difficulties about confessing such very palpable facts as those which Sir D. Brewster affirms that he was only persuaded by the rack to confess. These were, " That the obnoxious dialogues were written by himself; that he had obtained a license to print, without informing the functionary who gave it (informing him of what?); and that he had been prohibited from publishing such opinions.” Now, we should be inclined to say, that Galileo quite deserved any thing he might have suffered, if he had been fool enough to refuse to confess these notorious facts, except under torture: to argue from the phrase “ rigorous examination” that he was tortured before he would own them, is to proclaim Galileo a fool, in order to throw odium upon the Inquisition. It is so probable, too, that his “ nominal confinement," which the authorities tried to make “as agreeable as possible," should have been pleasantly diversified with an hour or two on the rack, or in suspense by his thumbs from the ceiling, while lighted candles were being applied to the soles of his feet! Can Sir David Brewster believe such a monstrous fiction? or does he only put the case impersonally—“ it has been stated, on authority which is considered unquestionable"—in order not to injure a pet Protestant conviction, which he has been obliged to renounce himself? or is it that he thinks that if any alleged fact has in its favour any authority which any body can be found to consider as unquestionable, a man is quite at liberty to receive the fact as true, and act accordingly? In other words, does he admit the system of probablism in the realm of facts, or things done, which all Protestants so much abuse in the realm of agenda, or things allowed to be done? In a case of doubt, says St. Alphonsus, if any moral theologian of name allows the thing to be done, you may do it, provided your conscience is satisfied. In a disputed case, implies Sir David, if you can find one author of note who asserts as a fact that which you wish to be true, why then, believe it to be a fact, assert it, don't admit for a moment the possibility of the contrary, but stick to it with the constancy of the turtle as long as it shall be convenient. It is true to you, if it is true to nobody else. Conscience and intention (which are the measures of the morality of an act) cannot lean on authority ; but objective truth may do so. This is a favourable specimen of the paralogisms of Protestantism.

We have only to add a few words about the religion of Sir Isaac Newton. This man, the “glory of the human race," who “ approached as near the gods as mortal may," has always been quoted as an argument for religion, and as a difficulty in the way of sceptics. That which such a man thought, must be true; it would be presumption to doubt it, heresy to deny it. Well, it turns out that this philosopher was a believer in the fanatical dreamer Jacob Behmen, from whose works he made large extracts with his own hand; that he spent much time in searching for the philosopher's tincture, which was to enable him to turn lead into gold. So notorious was his leaning to mystical fanaticism, that his friends would not let him go to hear the French prophets (the Camisards), fearing that he might be infected with them. So much for his positive belief. On the negative side, he was a decided Arian, or rather Eusebian, who denied the lawfulness of addressing a prayer to our Lord; and in his metaphysics he was so loose as to maintain that “ the Father is immovable, no place being capable of becoming emptier or fuller of Him than it is by the eternal necessity of nature. All other beings are movable from place to place ;” and so forth, using ideas of space in the definition of God in such a manner as to justify Leibnitz in asserting that space was the idol of the English philosophy; that as Locke was at least uncertain whether the soul was not material, so Newton made space into an organ of God (God's " infinite sensorium" are Newton's words), by means of which He perceived the things present in space. The fact is, that in the divisions of space and time, in all questions of lines, surfaces, solids, curves, velocities, numbers, Newton had an intuition which no intricacy could puzzle, no obscurity could baffle; when once a question could be asked in terms of space and time, he could answer it. But in questions which lie behind these forms of sensation, in that practical and spiritual reason whose forms are power, and intellect, and will, whose objects are God, and right and wrong, and the other deep questions of metaphysics, Sir Isaac was not to be compared with Leibnitz. To exalt him beyond his line is to do him more harm than good. We do not deny that a perfect acquaintance with any one subject of thought, or the possession of a great genius in any one line of reasoning, argues a well-balanced mind, an intellect which is capable of great things on other subjects and on other lines. Still, such a man is an authority only in that line in which he has a creative genius; in other subjects his opinions are entitled to respect certainly, but not to any devotion, such as Sir David would have us pay to them. Up to this time Sir David has been a Trinitarian; now he says, " What the gifted mind of Newton believed to be truth, I dare not pronounce to be error.” Only God can decide" those questions, often of words, which have kept at variance the wisest and the best of men."

Sir Isaac Newton seems to have had the rare gift of an organisation which was in complete obedience to his will: passionless, requiring little food, rest, or sleep, he was able to give his whole time to the most intense meditation; he walked about as if in an ecstasy; his “ carriage very meek, sedate, and humble; never seemingly angry, of profound thought, his countenance mild, pleasant, and comely;" only once seen to laugh, and that when a friend asked him what was the use of studying Euclid. So averse to any thing immoral, that he broke off all acquaintance with an Italian professor of chemistry, with whom he had been very intimate, because he once told him a loose story about a nun. So intent was he upon his studies, that he often forgot to eat at all, and never sat down to eat except when dining with others. But these studies were not religion ; indeed, he treated his religious exercises as he treated his dinner. “ He very seldom went to the chapel, that being the time at which he chiefly took his repose ; as for the afternoon, his earnest and indefatigable studies retained him, so that he scarcely knew the house of prayer.” However, he frequently went to St. Mary's Church on Sunday mornings. “As for his private prayers, I can say nothing of them; I am apt to believe his intense studies deprived him of the better part.” Such are the observations of a person who acted for nearly five years as his amanuensis. When Sir Isaac turned to religion, it was chiefly to start difficulties and resolve them. It was a matter of chronology and history in his interpretation of prophecy; a matter of metaphysical subtlety in his creed; he busied himself in finding difficulties in the personal history of Arius and of St. Athanasius, and strove to prove the former, with his party, in the right, and to blacken St. Athanasius as a liar and assassin. But he was, of course, exceedingly careful not to let these opinions of his creep out during his life, for fear of the consequences. He kept his professorship at Cambridge as a good Trinitarian, while in heart he had utterly renounced the doctrine. With these views, it is no wonder that he was always on the ultra-Protestant side, and ready to denounce what he called the Papistical and exclusive tendencies of the Church of England. Altogether Sir Isaac Newton is no great authority on religious matters, except to those who, like Mr. Kingsley, consider religion to be the study of nature. When once a person can say, with Thomas à Kempis, “ Let the heaven and earth, and all their host, be silent before Thy face," or " let all earthly things be bitterness to me, let me despise and forget all material and created things,” he has an idea of religion so absolutely different from that of this school, that there will be no danger of his being overpowered by the great name of even a Sir Isaac Newton.

« ПредишнаНапред »