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Here we encounter the abuse of reason, and contend against Deists, Rationalists and Unitarians, for the insufficiency of reason, as a guide or judge in matters of religion,—for its true nature, office and function,—and for the necessity, both of the Divine Word, and the Divine Spirit, as a standard, and as a guide to truth. And from what we have said, this controversy may, we think, be summarily ended.
Reason, we have seen, is finite, limited, and imperfect, and in reference to all Spiritual and Divine things, weaknened and darkened. Reason, too, is only a faculty, a capacity of knowledge. It is not knowledge. Whatever man knows, he knows by observation, experience, instruction, through the processes of his own reason, his intuitive beliefs, his original suggestions, his sense of right and wrong, with all other attributes and powers which together constitute his reason, and make him an intelligent, moral and accountable being Now, what the reason of a child is, compared with the reason of an educated man, the reason of the most highly gifted and informed mind is to that of angels; and the reason and knowledge of angels is no more than a single ray of light compared to the noontide brilliance of the sun, when contrasted with the infinite reason and perfect comprehension of Him that knoweth all things past, present and future,—whether material or immaterial, natural or divine. And since it is the very nature and irresistible tendency of reason to obtain whatever assistance, guidance and instruction, it has the means and opportunity of securing, in order to develope its powers and enlarge its sphere of knowledge ;-since, without such light and guidance, it would know nothing, even of things on earth, it is at once evident that human reason only acts rationally when in reference to all things divine, and which are, by their very nature, beyond its observation and comprehension, it submits itself implicitly to the teaching and guidance of revelation. Revelation, that is, the testimony and instruction of God, in reference to the nature of things spiritual, supernatural, and divine, is to reason just what nature, observation and instruction, the testimony provided by God, is in reference to things natural. Deists, and Rationalists, and Unitarians, might just as reasonably reject all use of these means of obtaining and judging of the truth and certainty and real nature of natural things, as to reject the light and guidance of revelation in things supernatural. God can give his testimony as to what is true in regard to things divine
by revelation, as well as give it as to things natural by his works, and by the senses, faculties, observation and experience of men.
And it is the same exercise of reason when it employs itself in finding out what God's testimony is, and believing what God testifies to be true, in regard to what God makes known by revelation, and what he makes known by observation, experience and argument. Christians, therefore, no more submit their reason to authority and to subjection, in receiving implicitly as true, without comprehending it, what God testifies in his word, than in receiving implicitly what God testifies in his works. In both cases, God's testimony is the ground of our belief. In both cases, we reply upon the infallibility of those powers of knowing that it is his testimony which God, who will not, and cannot deceive, has given us.—In both cases we gladly avail ourselves of all the light and knowledge God is pleased to impart to us.-In both cases, we comprehend nothing at all of the real essence of things, but only what God is pleased to manifest concerning them.—And in both cases, when we ascertain with certainty what God has made, what God has done, and what God has said, we ascertain what is the truth, and all at we can know of the truth. Reason, therefore, has precisely the same office, and the same province, in regard to all truth. The only difference is in regard to the nature of the evidence by which truth is testified, and thus brought before it. In things natural, the testimony is found in nature, and the evidence of what that nature in fact is, is brought before it by the observation of the senses, by the perceptions of the mind, by education and information, conveying to it upon testimony the experience of others. It is in this way reason acts, and acquires all it knows, all it can know, of natural things. On the other hand, in things supernatural, that is, in things beyond the reach of our senses, this testimony is found in the revelation of God, and what God does reveal, is brought before the mind by the evidence of prophecy, of miracles, and all the other external, internal, and experimental evidences by which what claims to be God's word, is proved to be indeed such. By education and instruction, the mind becomes acquainted with these evidences. By its intuitions and inferences, the mind is led to the conviction of the truth and inspiration of the Bible. And being thus assured that all Scripture is given by inspiration, and was written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, reason receives what the Bible contains as infallible truth,
3- Vol. IX.
although, of necessity, all that it reveals is above its comprehension, and can only be known so far as it has pleased God to reveal it. For reason to judge of the truth of doctrines thus certainly revealed, is as absurd and irrational, as for reason to judge of the truth of the facts revealed in nature All that reason can do in either case is to ascertain what are facts, and then to believe in them, however incomprehensible, and however apparently contrary to other facts, and to its own preconceived opinions, they may be, and in point of fact are, in regard to much of our natural knowledge. Reason is unreasonable whenever it attempts more than this, since to refuse to believe on sufficient evidence what is incomprehensible or contrary to preconceived opinions, is a direct violation of all reason. The truth and comprehension of a fact in nature, or of a doctrine in
a revelation, is not the province of reason, but only the ascertaining of the testimony and the determination of the evidence by which they are proved to be facts in nature or doctrines of revelation.
Let us, then, learn the true nature and condition of man. Let us be humble. Reason is exalted when it is abased, when it is teachable, conscious of its weakness, imperfection and liability to mistakes. The greatest minds have been the humblest, and the most extensive knowledge has ever been the result of the most docile and patient research. And what we object to in Deists and Rationalistic christians is, not that they reason, but that they reason ill,--not that they claim a right to form and to hold fast their own opinions, but that they claim the right to hold wrong opinions, which is self-contradictory,—not that they thus investigate by reason the evidence of what is true, but that they attempt, by the finite line of reason, to fathom the depth of what is infinitely below, to measure the height of what is infinitely above, and to comprehend the nature of what is infinitely beyond their reason.
"Matters of pure revelation are immediately from the instruction of God, therefore most reasonable to be believed, because most certainly true; but cannot be believed, otherwise than He has proposed them, either in manner or degree. From the insufficiency of reason to guide us in all matters relating to our final good, appears the necessity of revelation against the cavils of those who would so exalt nature as to render it altogether needless. And the evidence of its coming from God, manifests the obligation we are under to receive and obey it,
against the atheistical objections of those who would” attempt by reason to judge, to comprehend and to reject it, “represent it as a superstitious contrivance or invention of men. When, therefore, reason refuses to submit to God's guidance, or assent to what has all the inward and external marks of truth and infallible testimony; when it will deny, only because it cannot comprehend and fathom the depths of God with its own short line; or attempts to give reasons, and accounts for things which God has not thought fitting to explain; then it transgresses the bounds of duty, and instead of a guide becomes a deceiver and destroyer of those who follow its directions."
It is this arrogance, self-sufficiency, and exalting reason to an independency upon God, that has been the source of all fatal error and impiety, and tempted men to revolt from religion and from God. Such oracles of vain reasoning have all the doubters and disputers against religion been, since the world began. The more men have depended upon reason for the measure of Divine things, the further always have they erred from the truth. And what this is owing to, we may learn from the confession of a noble author, Lord Shaftesbury, in the first class among the despisers of revelation. “There is (says he) a certain perverse humanity in us, which inwardly resists the Divine commission, though ever so plainly revealed.”
THE BIBLE, AND NOT REASON, THE ONLY CERTAIN AND
AUTHORITATIVE SOURCE OF OUR KNOWLEDGE, EVEN OF
The ExisTENCE OF GOD. The existence of God as an infinite Spirit would we suppose in a natural and unvitiated condition of the soul, be a primary, intuitive, and necessary belief, not founded on reason, or induction, or rationally demonstrated, but assumed and taken for granted as true. But it is different with man now. His relation to God is the very one sin has most directly affected, and God the very subject of which he is most "willingly ignorant." The idea of an infinite personal God exists throughout christendom, it exists as an admitted axiomatic fact, not based upon rational demonstration, but as a truth taken for granted, and lying at the foundation of all other truths. This belief is strengthened and confirmed by observation and experience both of the inner and outer world. This we believe is the true position of the idea of an infinite and personal God. It is an axiomatic principle, the fundamental belief, capable of infinite conformation, but not of origination, by reason, demonstration, or proof. This is the position to which the Bible refers this idea. It is there also assumed—taken for granted-authoritatively enforced—but not proved. The heavens and the earth declare but they do not deliver it. They shew forth and proclaim, but they do not originate it. The Bible unites with these in giving evidence of God's existence and working, but it appeals to man's nature as adapted to, and requiring the belief of God as an axiomatic principle. But it is not with this as with other axiomatic scientific principles. Man as now blinded by sin and not liking to retain God in his knowledge, does not act as intuitively in regard to the idea of God, as in reference to other primary beliefs. He does not intuitively and without any instruction originate it. The denial of it does involve, as the denial of other primary beliefs does, absurdity, and impossibility, and contradiction, many even reject the idea, and deny the object, that is God as an infinite and personal moral being. The question then is whether in man's present condition, he is capable without instruction of originating the idea of an infinite and personal God. We affirm he is not, and my object is to shew so far is human reason from being able to prove any