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The consciousness of this power and the sense of touch give a distinct idea, such as all the world understands and acts upon, as to how a body may be moved. And the rule of philosophy which makes personal sensation and experience the basis of scientific knowledge, as they are the basis of the knowledge that regulates the common transactions of life, forbids recognizing any other mode than this. When, therefore, a body is caused to move without apparent contact and pressure of another body, it must still be concluded that the pressing body, although invisible, exists; unless we are prepared to admit that there are physical operations which are and ever will be incomprehensible to us.” 1
This aspect of the law of gravitation attracted great attention when it was first formulated, and called out the severest criticisms and opposition from Newton's contemporaries. "It is interesting," Stallo remarks, "to note the energy with which the philosophers and mathematicians of his day protested against the assumption of physical action at a distance. Huygens did not hesitate to say that Newton's principle of attraction appeared to him absurd.' Leibnitz called it an incorporeal and inexplicable power.' John Bernoulli denounced the two suppositions of an attractive faculty and a perfect void as revolting to minds accustomed to receiving no principles in physics save those which are incontestable and evident." Among later physicists, Euler observed that the action of gravity must be due either to the intervention of a spirit or to that of some subtle material medium escaping the perception of our senses; and his rival, D'Alembert, classified gravity as one of the causes productive of motion, whose real nature is to us entirely unknown, in contradistinction to action by impact, of which we have a clear mechanical conception.
This contrariety between the doctrine of gravitation and the accepted principles of physics was as clearly seen by Newton as by any of his critics; and he repeatedly and emphatically disowned the implications which his formula seemed to involve. He carefully explained that the force which urges bodies in their central approach was to him a purely mathematical concept, involving no consideration of real and primary physical causes. "It is inconceivable," he says, "that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter, without mutual contact. . . . That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance, through a 1 Concepts of Modern Physics, p. 56.
vacuum, without the mediation of anything else by and through which their action may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that I believe no man, who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it. Gravity must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws; but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the consideration of my readers."1 In another connection he says: "The reason of these properties of gravity I have not as yet been able to deduce; and I frame no hypotheses."
Have later physicists made any advance upon this position? In one sense they have, for they have made many hypotheses. In some of these gravitation is referred to the wave motion of an elastic interstellar and interatomic fluid similar to, or identical with, the luminiferous æther; but the criticism of Arago is considered fatal to these. It is briefly summed up as follows: "If attraction is the result of the impulsion of a fluid, its action must employ a finite time in traversing the immense spaces which separate the celestial bodies." This is fatal, because it is demonstrable that the action of gravity is instantaneous. There have been also impact theories. But the only one of these seriously discussed by modern physicists and astronomers, that of Le Sage, has been conclusively set aside by the criticism of Clerk Maxwell.
We are brought, then, to this: the broadest and most fruitful generalization of scientific thought, the fundamental law of cosmical significance, has to be stated in language which involves the contradiction of the mechanical theory. "Every particle of matter in the universe," it says, "attracts every other particle with a force directly proportioned to the mass of the attracting particle, and inversely to the square of the distance between them." Without this idea of attraction, — this conception of one body acting upon another at a distance, the above law could never have been discovered by Newton. It never could have been imagined by any one. When we state it, when we think it, we are just as much in conflict with the mechanical conception of things as when we think of ourselves as free agents; and when philosophy builds upon this latter conception as a reality it has the indorsement of reason no less than science has it when building on the law of the attraction of gravitation. In other words, the idea of mental causation as related to the idea of mechanical causation, presents no exceptional difficulties.
1 Concepts of Modern Physics, p. 54.
The emphasis that has been laid upon the conflict of these two ideas belongs, then, not to this age but to one of narrower outlooks. It had its rise in the infancy of science, when the two great generalizations, of which mind and mechanism are the expression, faced each other in solitary grandeur. But the progress of science has broken up this duality. For, instead of throwing the whole weight of its authority on the mechanical side, as physical realism assumes, it has in reality brought to light the manifold antagonisms that hitherto unperceived lurked within the concept mechanism. Each great generalization, as it has taken definite form, has declared itself as a more or less independent aspect of the reality of things. It has contributed one more evidence to support the view that the study of the external world tends not to the unification of our knowledge, but to the enlargement of its area, and to the multiplication of the points of view from which its reality must be contemplated.
In the words of one who, both from the side of science and of philosophy, has made a profound study of this problem: "By nothing but by a fatal confidence in its own infallibility can science be led so far astray as to attach its knowledge of complex series of phenomena by preference to the fewest possible axioms, or to the slender thread of a single principle, which causes the whole to fall if it gives way. Its labor will be more wisely directed if, instead of raising its structure on the sharp edge of a single fundamental view, and performing the marvelous feat of achieving the greatest possible instability by the most recondite means, it looks out for the broadest basis on which to build; and, starting modestly, traces the given facts to the proximate grounds of explanation required by their distinctly recognized peculiarities." 1
As to the rationality, then, of holding beliefs with regard to the world that are apparently destructive of each other, we reach a conclusion that may be summarized as follows: Since we are unable to penetrate to the essential reality of the world by analyzing its parts, and since, as a whole of vast complexity, it far transcends the range of our comprehension, therefore, it is reasonable to reject any system which professes to deduce all our knowledge from a single scientific principle. It is reasonable to say of such a system that its very completeness and exclusiveness is its own condemnation. And, on the other hand, it is reasonable to believe that we make our nearest approach to reality when we
1 Microcosmus, vol. i. p. 271.
entertain as real a plurality of principles, or aspects of the world, which we are not able directly to combine into an harmonious whole.
The bearing of this conclusion upon the question of our higher beliefs will be discussed in the next article.
F. H. Johnson.
ARE OUR THEOLOGICAL SEMINARIES IN DANGER OF OVERTRAINING?
In a recent public discussion of the question, How can we increase the number and improve the quality of the ministry? one speaker suggested the possible need of returning to the more private ways of training men for the ministry, because of the overloading of seminary courses of study. The speaker did not positively advocate this reversion of method, though he expressed his sense of gratitude that he had acquired his own theological education before the new departments of theological learning had been introduced, but he intimated that the thought of such a change was in the minds of not a few laymen and ministers. He also instanced the case of a college student who had come to him for advice, asking whether it was not better for him, in view of the amount of study called for or offered in the curriculum of a theological seminary, to study for the ministry privately with some successful preacher and pastor.
The charge of a tendency to scholasticism is a very old and a very common charge against theological seminaries. But the new form in which it is preferred may be worth considering. The present charge is that our seminaries are so widening their courses of study that they confuse and burden the minds of students, and especially that they prevent that singleness of purpose which ought to characterize the preacher of the gospel, and which may be expected to be fostered by study in connection with the active work of the pastorate.
In considering this charge we have no desire to defend mere institutionalism as it may find expression in theological seminaries. Much less would we detract from the merits of exceptional men in the ministry, whose power and method is personal. We wish that there were more of them. Religious genius, like every other form of genius, is a law unto itself. "Genius," John Foster says, "lights its own fires." There is nothing to be said about the man who has little or no need of borrowing light or heat. But it is quite absurd to apply the methods of the exceptional man to the average man. Exceptional men in the ministry seldom repeat their power in their disciples. They are not good teachers and trainers. And it is doubtless in the consciousness of this deficiency that when such men wish to work out in others their more personal ideas and plans they almost invariably resort to institutional methods, as was notably the case with Mr. Spurgeon, and now with Mr. Moody.
Are our theological seminaries in danger of overtraining for the ministry? The question is partly a question of fact and partly of judgment.
It would be of interest, did our space allow, to show in detail the scope of a theological education which the founders of the older theo