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protest against any obligation on the believer's conscience, to assent to a philosophical opinion incidentally expressed by Moses, by David, or by St. Paul, upon the authority of their infallibility in divine. knowledge, though I think it highly for the honour and the interest of religion that this liberty of philosophizing, except upon religious subjects, should be openly asserted and most pertinaciously maintained, yet I confess it appears to me no very probable supposition, (and it is, as I conceive, a mere supposition, not yet confirmed by any one clear instance,) that an inspired writer should be permitted in his religious discourses to affirm a false proposition in any subject, or in any history to misrepresent a fact; so that I would not easily, nor indeed without the conviction of the most cogent proof, embrace any notion in philosophy, or attend to any historical relation, which should be evidently and in itself repugnant to an explicit assertion of any of the sacred writers. Their language too, notwithstanding the accommodation of it that might be expected, for the sake of the vulgar, to the notions of the vulgar, in points in which it
is of little importance that their erroneous notions should be immediately corrected, is, I believe, far more accurate-more philosophically accurate, in its allusions, than is generally imagined. And this is a matter which, if sacred criticism comes to be more generally cultivated, will, I doubt not, be better understood: Meanwhile, any disagreement that hath been thought to subsist between the physics or the records of the Holy Scriptures and the late discoveries of experiment and observation, I take in truth to be nothing more than a disagreement between false conclusions drawn on both sides from true premises. It may have been the fault of divines to be too hasty to draw conclusions of their own from the doctrines of holy writ, which they presently confound with the divine doctrine itself, as if they made a part of it; and it hath been the fault of natural philosophers to be no less hasty to build conjectures upon facts discovered, which they presently confound with the discoveries themselves,-although they are not confirmed by any experiments yet made, and are what a fuller interpretation
of the phenomena of nature may hereafter perhaps refute. Thus, while genuine revelation and sound philosophy are in perfect good agreement with each other, and with the actual constitution of the universe, the errors of the religious on the one side, and the learned on the other, run in contrary directions; and the discordance of these errors is mistaken for a discord of the truths on which they are severally grafted.
To avoid this evil, in every comparison of philosophy with revelation, extreme caution should be used to separate the explicit assertions of holy writ from all that men have inferred beyond what is asserted or beyond its immediate and necessary consequences; and an equal caution should be used to separate the clear naked deposition of experiment from all conjectural deductions. With the use of this precaution, revelation and science may receive mutual illustration from a comparison with each other; but without it, while we think that we compare God's works with God's word, it may chance that
we compare nothing better than different chimeras of the human imagination.
Of the light which philosophy and revelation may be brought to throw upon each other, and of the utility of the circumspection which I recommend, we shall find an instructive example in a subject in which the world is indebted for much new information to the learned and charitable founders of that Society of which I am this day the willing advocate; a Society which, incited by the purest motives of philanthropy, in its endeavours to mitigate the disasters of our frail precarious state, regardless of the scoffs of vulgar ignorance, hath in effect been prosecuting for the last fourteen years, not without considerable expense, a series of difficult and instructive experiments, upon the very first question for curiosity and importance in the whole compass of physical inquiry, what is the true principle of vitality in the human species? and what certainty belongs to what have generally been deemed the signs of death?
The words which I have chosen for my text relate directly to this subject: They make the last part in a description of the progress of old age, from the commencement of its infirmities to its termination in death, which these words describe. The royal preacher evidently speaks of man as composed of two parts, -a body, made originally of the dust of the earth, and capable of resolution into the material of which it was at first formed; and a spirit, of a very different nature, the gift of God. The royal preacher teaches us, what daily observation indeed sufficiently confirms, that in death the body actually undergoes a resolution into its elementary grains of earth; but he teaches us besides, what sense could never ascertain, that the spirit, liable to no such dissolution, "returns to God who gave it."
All this is perfectly consistent with the history of the creation of the first man, delivered in the book of Genesis. There we read, first, of a man created after God's own image (which must be understood of the mind of man, bearing the Divine image