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is good. But such is not its present character. Man was, indeed, “made upright,” but he has become “corrupt.” As men are now, "they have no understanding.” They have "corrupt minds." Their "foolish heart is darkened.” “Having the understanding darkened through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” Man's reason, therefore, is now clouded as well as limited. It is debased by servitude to the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eyes. It is enfeebled by moral disease. It is manacled by prejudices. The eye of reason is vitiated. It cannot bear the light. It loveth darkness rather than light, and because it will not come to the light and receive the truth in the love of it, it stumbleth, even at noon-day. Such is the testimony of "the Father of our spirits,”—“the Light who enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world," and who "knoweth what is in man."
And such, also, is the testimony of observation and experience. Even in reference to purely intellectual and philosophical pursuits, the father of philosophy found it necessary to caution against the idols of the mind. The art of reasoning is but the science of exposing and guarding against the weakness, perversity and sophistry of the human mind. Imperfection, contradiction, change have characterized all the efforts of genius. No theory has been too absurd to find advocates and disciples, while rival sects,- from those who believe every thing, to those who believe nothing, however true,-have filled up the history of philosophy. There is no single truth, from the existence of an external world to the existence of an eternal God, which has not been denied and darkened. Reason has, in all ages, rendered man shamefully unreasonable. Philosophy has been the guide to all the errors under the sun. What right reason itself is, --what the chief good is,—what right and wrong are, -what is the nature,ground, and authority of morality,—what man is,-what the soul is-what God is,-what man's destiny is,-human reason never has discovered or determined, with any fixed or authoritative certainty. There have been as many opinions as philosophers in the world, and among them, there have been opinions merely, but no certain knowledge. When in the right, they disputed themselves wrong, and left every thing in confusion and doubt. Socrates, the wisest of men, professed to know only one thing with certainty, and that was his ignorance of every thing, and the ignorance of all who pretended to know any more. Plato, again and again, reminded his hearers that he could give them probability, and not proof, for what he taught. Both Socrates and Plato rebuked the pride and ignorance of philosophers as the fruitful source of every error.* Aristotle condemned all his predecessors as foolish and vain-glorious, and in regard to all things Divine, said little, and believed less. And, not to name the skeptics who doubted and disputed every thing, the opinion of Tully may be given as that of all who have ever earnestly inquired after truth, without the light of revelation, namely, "that all things are surrounded and concealed by so thick a darkness, that no strength of mind can penetrate them."
But man was made to practise as well as to know; and reason was intended to guide into right actions as well as into right opinions. To know and choose to do what is good is moral goodness, and to know and choose to do what is contrary to
*Plato brings in Socrates in his Alcibiades, thus philosophizing: "Thou knowest that errors in practice come from this ignorance, that men think they know, what they do not." Then he adds, When men are conscious of their own ignorance, they are willing to be taught by others. Again, Believe me and the famous Delphic oracle, Know thyself. This Plato, in his Charmides, speaks, Many have erred from their scope by trusting to their own opinion without judgment. Again, It is a great piece of temperance for a man to know himself. It would be a great advantage of none would act beyond their knowledge and strength. We seem to know all things, but indeed we are ignorant of every thing. It is an absurd thing to philosophize of things we know not; when any attempts a thing above his strength, he greatly errs. Thus Plato, out of what he had learnt from his master, Socrates. So, again, in Legib. 5, Plato discoursing of selflove: From this, says he, proceeds this great error, that all men esteem their ignorance to be wisdom, whence, knowing nothing, we think we know all things. Thence, not permitting ourselves to be taught what we are ignorant of, we fall into great errors. We have, indeed, a great saying in his Epinom. p. 980, shewing that we can get no true knowledge of God, but by dependence on, and prayer to him. His words are, Trusting in the Gods, pray unto them, that thou mayest have right notions of the Gods. Thus it shall be, if God as a Guide, shall shew us the way; only help thou with thy prayers.
Lastly, Plato, Legib. 4, tells us, That he who is humble and modest will adhere to Divine justice. But he that is lifted up in his own proud confidences, as though he wanted no Guide or Governor, he is deserted by God; and being deserted, disturbs others; and, although he may for awhile seem some body, yet at last he is sufficiently punished by Divine justice.See the original, given in Gales Court of the Gentiles, vol. 3, pp. 15, 16.
*The early fathers who had been disciples of Plato, and the other philosophers, speak very strongly of their weakness and folly.
You will adduce, says Justin Martyr to the Greeks, the wise men and the philosophers, for, to these, as to a strong-hold, you are wont to make your escape, whenever, concerning the Gods, any one twits you with the opinion of the poets. Wherefore, since it is fitting to begin with the first and the most ancient, commencing with them I will shew: that the speculation of each philosopher is still more ridiculous, than even the theology of the poets. (1)
He then proceeds in regular succession, through the several opinions of Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Anaxagoras, Archelaus,
(1) Justin ad Græc. Cohort. Oper. p. 3.
right, is moral evil. What, then, is the character of human reason, as seen in human conduct? All that we commonly call the weakness, blindness and disorder of our passions, is, in reality, the weakness, disorder and blindness of our reason, to whom those passions are in subjection, and without whose sanction they could neither desire, will, nor act. All the tempers and passions of the heart, all the prejudices and idols of the mind, all the numerous faculties of the soul, are, as we have said, but the various acts and operations of one and the same rational principle which, in its union with the physical nature, constitutes man, and they only receive different names, according to the object on which this reason is employed, and the manner in which it acts. Reason, therefore, as it is the only principle of virtue, so it is the only cause of all that is base,
Pythagoras, Epicurus, Empedocles, Plato, and Aristotle, or the purpose of convicting them all of manifest and indisputable folly. With respect to Plato, in particular, nothing can be more contemptuous than Justin's sneer at him.
Plato, forsooth, is as sure that the Supreme Deity exists in a fiery substance, as if he had come down from above, and had accurately learned and seen all things that are in Heaven. (1)
Since, continues he to the Greeks, it is impossible to learn from your teachers any thing true respecting piety towards God, inasmuch as their very difference of opinion is a plain proof of their ignorance ; I deem it an obvious consequence, that we should return to our own forefathers; who are of much higher antiquity than any of your teachers; who have taught us nothing from their own mere phantasy; who, among themselves, have no discrepancies; and who attempt not mutually to the opinion of each other, but who, without wrangling and disputation, communicate to us that knowledge which they have received from God. For, neither by nature nor by human intellect, is it possible for men to attain the knowledge of such great and Divine matters; but only by the gift which descends from above upon holy men, who needed not the arts of eloquence or the faculty of subtle disputation, but who judged it solely necessary to preserve themselves pure for the efficacious energy of the Divine Spirit.
For the authors of our theology, says he, we have the Apostles of the Lord: who not even themselves arbitrarily chose what they would introduce; but who faithfully delivered to the nations that discipline which they had received from Christ. FINALLY HERESIES THEMSELVES ARE SUBORNED FROM PHILOSOPHY. Thence spring those fables and endless genealogies and unfruitful questions and discourses, creeping like a gangrene: from which the Apostles would rein us back, by charging us, even in so many words, to beware of philosophy. What, then, is there in common between Athens and Jerusalem, between the Academy and the Church, between Heretics and Christians ? Our institution is from the porch of Solomon : who himself has admonished us to seek the Lord in simplicity of heart. Let those persons see to it, who have brought forward a Stoical, or a PLATONIC, or a Dialectic christianity.
From the Prophets and from Christ we are instructed in regard to God. Nor from the Philosophers or from Epicurus.
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world that he might confound the wise. Through this simplicity of the truth, DIRECTLY CONTRARY to subtiloquence and philosophy, we can savour nothing perverse. (2)
(1) Justin. Cohort. Oper., p. 4.
(2) See also Tertullian to the same effect, adv. hær. § 2, 3; and adv. Marcion lib. ii., $ 13, and lib. v. § 40.
horrid and shameful in human nature. Reason alone can discern truth, and reason alone can lead into the grossest errors, both in speculation and in practice, and hence men are held accountable for all the evil they do, because they do it knowingly, and willingly, that is, in the exercise of reason.
Such, then, as is human nature, such is human reason. And as human nature is every where, and in all ages and places mistrusted, deceitful, and desperately wicked in its unrestrained developments, it follows that though all men are rational, they are not reasonable; since reason itself is darkened by sin, “so that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, either as to doctrine, spirit or duty, for they are foolishness unto him, because they are spiritually discerned.” Reason, in man's present condition, is not what it originally
That light, therefore, which at first was sufficient to preserve man from falling, and to lead him in the way of truth, is not sufficient to restore him, now that he has fallen, and to bring him back to God. "Not (says the Apostle,) that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God," who alone can "give us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, and be guided into all truth, and be preserved from all error."
This brings us once more, therefore, to the main question before us, namely, whether reason,—the reason of every individual man, or the collective reason of all men, or the particular opinions each man has happened to take up, with or without examination, whether this reason is the standard and judge of truth. It is not a question now in dispute, whether all men have the right and are under a solemn obligation, to judge and act according to their own reason. This is as clear to our mind as that every man has a right to see, and can see oniy with his own eyes, and hear with his own ears. This is a matter of duty and of necessity, since man, as a rational being, can only act from reason, and can only really believe what his own reason has assured him is proved by sufficient evidence. To act from the principle of reason and choice, or will, is as necessary to man as his being what he is. This is not the privilege of the philosopher, but is as essential to human nature as self-consciousness, personal identity and conscience are.
In this controversy, we maintain, therefore, the absolute necessity of reason to every opinion which man holds, and to every action man performs. This we do against fanatics on
the one hand, and Romanists on the other. Both these classes of errorists agree in denying the use of reason. The fanatic "substitutes in place of the sober deductions of reason, the extravagant fancies of a disordered imagination, and considers these fancies as the immediate illumination of the Spirit of God.” He puts out the light, and then follows the vagaries of his own bewildered imagination, forgetting that God never commands, but he convinces also; that men cannot obey without believing, nor believe without sufficient evidence of the truth or duty. They who deny, therefore, the use of reason, in order to the belief of any doctrine or duty, destroy the only means God has given us to convince of the reasonableness and obligation of truth and duty, and instead of a rational worship, have fallen into all the delusions of madness and superstition.
The Romanist allows religion to be a reasonable service only so far as it enables the enquirer to discover that the Romish Church is the infallible testifier, in God's stead, to all that is truth, and to all that is duty. Having done this, its office ceases, except so far as to hear what she inculcates, and obey what she commands. In other words, man, in becoming a Romanist, ceases to be a rational being, and to hold any direct relation or responsibility to God. He believes and does what the church enforces, and this is the sum and substance of the Romish religion. It is not belief in God, in Christ, in a Holy Spirit, or in any one or all of the doctrines of the Gospel. It is belief in the Church of Rome, not in the Bible, not in our own senses, reason, or faculties. This, however, is as contrary to the necessity of our being, as it is to the word of God, which requires us to search the Scriptures, whether what the church teaches be true, to prove all her teachings by that word, and to be always ready, in reference to every doctrine and duty, to give a reason to every one that asketh.
The question, then, now before us, is not as to the use of reason, in reference to all testimony, and all evidence, and its absolute necessity to all belief, but whether every man's reason is to guide him in his inquiries after truth, and in his reception of the truth by its own light merely, by the amount of its present knowledge merely, or by that it conceives to be the general opinion of mankind merely, or whether in all matters that relate to God and things spiritual and divine, it is to be guided by the light which God has been pleased to impart in his word.