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He that is of reason's skill bereft,
Without an helm or pilot her to sway:
Reason, my guide,.
The steps of Faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
"Our meddling intellect Misshapes the beauteous forms of things We murder to dissect."
William C. Bryant.
More light! Goethe.
(His last words.)
In general, his faithfulness is a safe confession of faith. work of thought, or doctrine, forms itself in his mind, like the bones in his body. With fair feeding and exercise, life builds its own bones. But men never seek the companionship of a naked skeleton. Dry bones tell of a church-yard rather than of a church. The public nostril is quick to detect the odor of death in those theological circles where
John G. Whittier.
Alas for him who thinks it necessary to settle the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, or the primacy of Peter, or the possibility of miracles, or the genesis of life, before he can begin to live like a glad-hearted child of God!-Charles G. Ames (Saratoga Sermon, 1882).
There are no negations so sweeping and dangerous as the affirmations of superstition. The most powerful plea against all faith is made by a church which imposes an elaborate system of oracular dogmas, which ring hollow to the knock of rational inquiry. Catholic Europe to-day is illustrating the value of such positive doctrines. The only true positiveness in doctrine is reasonableness. Carry down the roots of faith below all secondary soils, external authorities of councils or of books, into "the constitution and nature of things,' and you have struck hold in a soil sure to feed the future with beneficent and beautiful beliefs. . . . There is a faith in Jesus as much harder than the lofty formulas of the Nicene Creed as a life is harder than a philosophy.-Dr. R. Heber Newton.
See Dr. J. F. Clarke's Essentials and Non-essentials in Religion, passim; also Unitarian Affirmations, passim.
The first and the last fact of human experience is intelligence and will. Matter, pressed to the utmost, declares itself to be Force. Force, pressed to the utmost, declares itself to be Thought and Will. And Thought, pressed to the utmost, declare that they are the breath of the Spirit of God. The Alpha and the Omega of human experience is Spirit. Our science, when it has held up the world to the most searching scrutiny, must drop it back again into the hand of the Almighty, from whence it came. Reason, following motion from star to star, and into the infinite past, cannot escape the necessity of looking beyond the bounds of the visible universe for the First Cause, which it always seeks, but never finds within the limits of the seen.- Dr. Newman Smyth (Old Faiths in New Light, p. 164).
In the argument from prophecy, we have to do with a forest, not with a single bough or a basket of leaves; with the whole trend of a coast, not with single headlands or inlets of the sea; with a zone of constellations, not with scattered stars. We have to do with the whole tenor of Scripture, with the prolonged course of centuries of history, with the multitudinous testimonies of the human soul in many generations, with the arrangements and combinations of many events in one continuous and resplendent revelation of the glory of the Lord. Idem, 248.
If we analyze faith to see what it is, we shall find that it is, first, faith in persons. This is the faith of the child. Next, it is faith in ideas, in laws, in principles. And, lastly, it is the union of both, faith in God, in whom law and love are one,- the Divine Being whose nature is truth, who is the sum of all the laws of the universe. By this faith we live, by this faith we grow, by this faith we accomplish everything, by this faith we are saved. We cease to be animals as we arise out of sensation and sight into belief and trust in ideas. All great men, all the souls who govern the world and lead on society, are great in proportion to their strength of conviction. They act not by what they see, but by their strong confidence in what they do not see....
Salvation by faith is a universal law of the moral universe. It is no arbitrary enactment of Christianity alone, but it is based in the very nature of man. All moral and spiritual life comes from faith in things unseen. All real knowledge has its roots in faith. He who doubts is a lost soul; that is, he has lost his way. Jesus came to seek and save these lost souls by giving them some clear, strong convictions by which to live and die. Inspired by him, "all who are in their graves" hear his voice and come forth. The poor, suffering, lonely man, bereft of all, sick, in prison, condemned to die, is safe and happy if he has faith in God, truth, immortality. What can man do to him? He may have trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. But his hope sustains
him; for he believes that neither life nor death, nor things present nor things to come, can ever separate him from the love of God. What we need most of all and always is some great belief, some strong conviction, some realizing sense of spiritual things. Then, we are young, though years and cares have marked wrinkles on our brow. We are full of life, though on the verge of the tomb. We are happy, hopeful, contented, and have an inward peace which is better than all the treasures of this world.-Dr. J. F. Clarke (Common Sense in Religion, pp. 333, 349).
All moral teaching, then, whether within the Bible or without, addresses itself to the consciousness of the disciple. Neither Reason nor Faith is to be flouted at. Reasoning is not to be subordinate, but co-ordinate with the function of Faith; Faith being defined as fidelity to religious conviction, and not merely as a synonyme of credulity. Thus, the prayer that the Holy Spirit may guide us into all truth imports the aspiration,- May Reason, combined with the good-will essential to fair-mindedness, be the verifying faculty whereby we shall sift and appropriate the good-inspired in everything we read, the Bible not excepted.
Truth and Beauty but impart
Celeste Shute Burnham.
Defining Reason as the faculty by which the mind distinguishes truth from falsehood and good from evil, and which enables the possessor to deduce inferences from facts or from propositions, there must be, in its application to the study of the Bible, not only isolated analysis, but also critical comparison of scriptures. Thus, in the unimportant inquiry, What did David pay for Araunah's threshing-floor? or, What was the footing of Joab's enumeration of Israel and Judah? one who had consulted only the last chapter of Second Samuel would give a more unsatisfactory answer than one who had also studied the twenty-first chapter of First Chronicles. Illustrations in more important questions will be adduced hereafter. Other instances will be suggested in comparing the new English version with the King James. Especially is the compositional ground for discrimination apparent in the Old Testament and Apocrypha.
Minor narratives were fused together one after the other; and at length, in exile, a final redactor completed the great work, on the first part of which Ezra based his reformation, while the latter part was thrown into the second canon. The curious combination of the functions of copyist and author, which is here presupposed, did not wholly disappear till a pretty late date; and whereas, in the Books of Samuel, we have two recensions of the text, one in Hebrew and one in the Septuagint translation, the discrepancies are of such a kind that criticism of the text and analysis are separated by a scarcely perceptible line.*- Dr. S. Davidson.
And not only must the circumstances of the writers, but also those of the personages, be considered.
At first, they knew him only as a village enthusiast, a Galilean teacher, at best a rabbi like other interpreters of the law, one of the school, perhaps, of Rabbi Hillel or Rabbi Simeon, like them setting the weightier matters of justice and mercy above the mint, anise, and cumin of current exposition. For a background to the understanding of his discourses, we should know something of the wonderful, well-meaning pedantry of the rabbinical interpreters, and something, too, of the genuine and wholesome ethics which the better sort, Hillel at their head, had tried to engraft upon it. . . . Only as an afterresult came his strong conviction that he was the chosen deliverer of his people, though by a way they could not understand or follow.Joseph H. Allen.
The duty of reasoning is inculcated in the Westminster Confession: "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture."
Óften has the undue consideration of one passage to the exclusion of others been apparent in discussing ethical or political questions; as, for instance, the citing of alleged declarations of Noah in support of slavery or of capital punishment, similarly polygamy and intemperance. Indeed, almost every discovery in science has had to run a gauntlet of missiles moulded from such distorted materials. There be those who
Would torture pages of the Bible
And in Oppression's service libel
Both man and God.
*See Alleged Discrepancies, etc., by Dr. J. W. Haley.
Hereto come two voices from Scotland:
I look into the Scriptures with humble hope of extracting a rule of conduct and a law of salvation. But I expect to find this by an examination of their general tenor and of the spirit which they uniformly breathe, and not by wresting particular passages from their context or by the application of Scriptural phrases to circumstances with which they have often very slender relation.—Sir Walter Scott (Old Mortality, chap. 21).
When a few more years are past, Buckland and Sedgwick, Lyell, Jameson, and the group of brave men who accompanied and followed them, will be looked back to as moral benefactors to their race, and almost as martyrs also, when it is remembered how much misunderstanding, obloquy, and plausible folly they had to endure from wellmeaning fanatics, like Fairholme or Granville Penn and the respectable mob at their heels, who tried, as is the fashion in such cases, to make a hollow compromise between fact and the Bible by twisting facts just enough to make them fit the fancied meaning of the Bible, and the Bible just enough to make it fit the fancied meaning of the facts.-Hugh Miller.
The Church of Rome fought long and desperately against the Copernican system of astronomy, which seemed to conflict with a scrap of poetry in the Book of Joshua. It issued bulls to make the earth stand still, a significant symbol of what theology has often attempted. It was a vain contest: Rome might imprison Galileo, but "the stars in their courses" fought against Ptolemy, and Rome was finally forced to yield. The poetry of Joshua was allowed to be poetry, and the facts of astronomy were allowed to be facts. In our own time, a similar battle has been waged by theology against geology, in the interest of another scrap of poetry in the Book of Genesis. Geology discovers that it took a good while to make the world, more than a week, more than a year, more than a hundred thousand years; but theology insists on making a week's work of it, and fancies the credit of the Bible involved in that despatch.— Dr. F. H. Hedge.
Dr. N. Smyth and others detect upon the surface of the Genesis narrative signs of a mnemonic purpose,—a first lesson made easy before the days of printing-presses.
That the volume outlasts misuse and outrage by both friend and foe is proof that there is in it somewhere and somehow a mighty preservative leaven. The Sermon on the Mount will survive as long as human conduct needs guidance or human sorrows beatitude.
Dwelt there no divineness in us,