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REVIEW., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 1997, 15 November 1888
Natural Law m the Spiritual World. By Henry Drummona, F.R.S.E., F.G.S. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1888: FIBST ZTOTIOB. A significant feature of modern rellg'ous Boolety is the growing estrangement ff men from tho sot of public worship The falling off Is more conspicuous m icma denominations than others, bnt, speaking generally, throughout the ObrlstUn world, there Is a marked decline ta the attendance of men at the ohuroh services, whioh appear likely, at no distant date, to be held prlro1p»lly for the bene- ( fit of women and children. This abjtlnence of men from public worship la % doubtless the effeot of a growing disbelief m the truth of orthodox creeds, Agnoßtlolsm i» widely «pret>d amongst the iutellrotual olasses of io;iety, Numbers of scientific and literary man, who aro virtually tbe leaders of modern though*, •re avowed Agnostler, Many others, less open m avowal, app»rent]y entertain the same opinions, and comparatively few range themselves amongst the professors of Christianity. Agnoßtle ideas pervade modern literature, and these powerful and ■earchlng influences naturally • fleet the minds of that multitude of persons, who, from either want of time or inclination, do not think out religious qm stloos for themselves, bnt placidly follow the lead of others. This is a subject cf the most serious import, not only to the religious teaobet, but also to the statebman, since It Is obvious thai if tbe mats of mankind henceforth cease to be restrained by those religious beliefs whioh have hitherto proved such a powerful curb npon their passions, a new and startling sate of society will arise, whose future no man tan predict. It is not indeed surprising that men •hould be gradually ceasing to be ohuroh goers. Tbe troth le, tbe greater number of oar clergy are out of touch with modern thought. They eeem to ignore the clrcum stance that the scientific discoveries of the past quarter e of a centuty have t faceted a silent revolution m the ideas of oivillsed mankind, and that the faots, as distinguished from the theories, of physical solence, seriously challenge some of the fundamental Christian beliefs. Our olergy expend a vast amount of misdireoted «nergy upon trifles, or comparative tr'fl is While the axe is being laid to the very coot of the tree, their time fs oooupied In clipping off* useless sprig here, a rotten branch there. The foundations of Christianity are vigorously assailed, but Instead of devoting every eff >rt to their defence, the olerpy are thundering might and main against the petty vises and foibles of The religious enquirer, who vtacerely desires to have his doubts dispelled will gain little assistance from the modern pnlplt Let os, however, be jnst. Modern thought has developed itself so swiftly along novel lines that the training of the elergf— neoessarlly ot a conservative character— has not kept pace with It. 1 Physical science has grown co fa-t ; faots have been accumulated m inch wonderful profusion ; that no Inconsiderable amount of time and hard study m required to gain even a moderate acquaintance with •afcntlficknowledce ; and such an acquaintance 1» absolutely necessary before any person can intelligently examine and criticise faots and theories which apparently conflict with accepted religious doctrine*. Still, the unfortunate circumstance remains, that until oar religions leaden are able to meet scientific agnostic* face to face, and defeat them with their own weapons, »H the argument will be on At side of the agnostics, and all the Msertkn on that of their olerical opponents, and tbVcause of religion will suffer Accordingly. " Mr Drummond's book makes Its appearance very opportunely. That It supplies a real want is proved by the large clrcnlatlon it his already aohleved. It was only published a short time ego, bat the title page of the volume before as b marked "Twenty-second edition, completing seventy -seventh thousand." In eii>er words it has been as successful as • popular novel, yet It Is not a work of Heat reading. Me Drammond writes admirable and luold English. But the subjeots of which be treats require deep thought and earnest attention for their full comprehension. To thoroughly appreciate tbe work, indeed, needs some degree of •elentino knowledge, and Mr Drummond recommends the general reader to skip part of It The real oame why tbe book has attained such a wide circulation, Is, we opine, that It, at all events partially, satisfies the doubts of the crowd of thinking persons whose religions faith has been shaken by the logic of hard fact*, bot who yet nave no wish to embrace tbe dismal creed of agnosticism. Mr Drummond Is ao original thinker and takes a new departure. Numerous writers have ■ought to " reconcile" scientific faots with prevailing religions beliefs; bat these commendable efforts have always failed of their end, for the simple reason that the writers m question have been attempting to reconcile the Irreconcilable. As Mr Drammond remarks, solenoe and religion •re two things which never should have been contrasted. The manner In whioh JAx Diummond deals with bis snbjeot can be best stated In his own words— "The real problem I have Bet myself may be stated In a sentence. In there not reason to believe that many of the laws of the spiritual world hitherto regarded »s oocnpylng an entirely separate province, are simply the laws of the natural world ? Can we Identify the natural laws, or any one of them In the •pirltaal sphere 1 That ysgue lines everj where ran through the spiritual world is already beginning to be recognised. Ip it possible to link them with those great Fines canning through the visible universe wbieb we o»H natural laws ? Or are they fundamentally Jdlstlnot ? In a word-=-I« the supernatural natural or onnatural V It will be observed that our author sesames the t«nth of the foodsmßntal doctrines of Christianity ; he does so because, from his point of view, they »re not assailed by physical science, hence It it Is needless to defend them; What he endeavours to prove is that the same great laws which govern the aourse of the physical world equally rule man's spiritual nature— just as tbe law of gravitation, by virtue of which the apple falls from the tree to the ground, likewise controls the movements of the most distant stars. Not Indeed that every law pervading the physical universe Is found operating In the spiritual adhere, bat certain laws are common to both and Idsottesl— they are laws which "st one •aft as It were, may be dealing with matter, at the other «nd with spirit " Ohas. W Pujbhill.-
REVIEW., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 1997, 15 November 1888
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