A Defence of Drummond -- By: George F. Magoun

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 043:169 (Jan 1886)
Article: A Defence of Drummond
Author: George F. Magoun


A Defence of Drummond

Geo. F. Magoun

In the Expositor (London, Hodder and Stoughton) for April and May, some one has come to the “defence” of Professor Drummond’s book. Perhaps it is the author himself. The fact is recognized that “its method of reasoning has been objected to, its central principle has been pronounced an illusion, and nearly every one of the applications of this principle has been denied by some critic or other.” We have had our say in showing that, if fairly and carefully tested by the laws of thought, the book by no means establishes at all, even as a partial thesis, or in a single instance, what it professes to establish. It must stand in logic, or else fall; and plainly it does not stand. Whether the religious ideas it attempted to place on a new platform of physical uniformities are correct or not, and whether the novel analogies it suggests are just or not, no identity of law in the two realms is made out. The “defence” says that the author “was struck with the identity of a few of the laws governing both regions,” and “leapt to the vast generalization that the laws of both might be identical;” but “he does not pretend to have proved it: as yet it is merely a hypothesis awaiting proof.” “He does not yet ask the public assent to it except to the extent of the few illustrations of it which he has produced.” An unintended inaccuracy of language here is nearer the truth than more correct phraseology would have been. Professor Drummond’s cases are illustrations, not exemplifications, as they should have been to help out his “vast generalization.” An example would do more than throw light on its meaning, as an illustration or analogy can: it would establish the truth exemplified. It would give us matter of fact. Plainly his translation of spiritual laws into the language of uniform facts of matter gives us nothing of the kind.

It is often possible to restate a law or prevailing fact of a particular kind in language less precise and specific, which will allow some sort of application to facts of an entirely different kind. Professor Drammond might have taken this course, as we have intimated,1 and as an after-thought it seems to have occurred to the writer of the “defence.” “Already in Scripture,” he says, “there may be found laws of wide sweep which are identical in both spheres; as, for example, the favorite saying of our Lord,— To him that hath shall more be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him who hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath” The terms “hath,” “given,” “abundance,” “taken,” belonged originally in the physical sphere beyond question; but they are not so used by our Saviour here. They are...

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