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thing about God which would demonstrate the absurdity of the doctrine that God in the unity of an eternal Godhead exists in a trinity of subsisting, relative personalities, it cannot originate the idea of an infinite God, much less determine his nature. I wish to bring this subject of God's trinity in unity to the teaching of the Bible, free from any a priori improbabilities supposed to be credited by a priori reasoning. The existence of God is believed to be an axiomatic principle, and that God is one, we believe to be an equally fundamental principle. But these leave the question of God's triune existence in that unity to be decided by proper, that is by supernatural evidence. Nay more, in his present condition, man cannot untaught, even originate the idea of an infinite personal God and can therefore tell neither less nor more about the Trinity of that God. All thoughts of God, at present found in the world we believe therefore to be consequent upon human instruction, based either upon a present revelation or upon the traditions of an original revelation. This position may be established 1, by showing that the subject is one on which the human mind cannot prove by reason; 2, by showing that it never has done so; 3, that as a matter of fact when left to itself, it never does do so, and 4, that even now the existence of God is considered by philosophy to be the insoluble problem, and one to which whenever reasoning is applied must be involved in scepticism and doubt.
“We have also,” says the Apostle Peter, "a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts.” Without entering into the discussion of the various shades of interpretation to which this passage of Scripture has given rise, I would present what appears to be implied as true in them all. The Apostle had adduced the miracle of the transfiguration, of which he was an eye-witness, as an irrefragable proof of the divinity and glory of Christ and his gospel, and of the assurance of future and everlasting blessedness. Of all this, the glory with which Christ was transfigured,--the testimony given to him by Moses and Elias,--and the voice of God openly declaring him to be his Son, and authoritatively requiring all men implicity to receive and obey his teachings,-are irresistible proofs. But, adds the Apostle, strong as is this testimony, and infallible as is this evidence of the truth and certainty of the things in which we have believed, we have the very word of God conveyed to us through the instrumentality of holy men of God in every age of the Church, in those Scriptures which are filled with prophetical and inspired truths. The allusion is therefore to the entire Scriptures, both of the old and new Testaments. These Scriptures were "ALL GIVEN BY INSPIRATION," as is attested by miraculous and prophetical evidences, that is, by a supernatural power, and a supernatural wisdom and foreknowledge, which imply omniscience, and omnipotence, and omnipresence. They are not, therefore, the result of private or uninspired disclosure, impulse or discovery. They did not originate from the intuitive or rational powers of the human mind. The Prophets were, as Bishop Horsley states it, necessary agents, acting under the irresistible influence of the omniscient Spirit, who made the faculties and the organs of those holy men the instruments for conveying to mankind some portion of the treasures of his own knowledge." All the information, both as to doctrine and duty, contained in the Scriptures, is the result of supernatural or divine influence, and is, therefore, as indisputably the Word of God, as the voice from "the excellent glory heard upon the holy mount."
To those Scriptures, therefore, we are required to "take heed," as being all "profitable for" the infallible communication of "doctrine" and knowledge of duty. In the midst of
" that obscurity and darkness which envelope the limited range of human reason, and the ignorance and inability to comprehend divine things, even when revealed, in which sin has involved the understandings of men, revelation shines as a light in a dark place, to instruct and guide, and is completely fitted to direct into all truth and all duty, the otherwise bewildered inquirer. While he who trusts to his own, or to human reason, is like the mariner without chart, compass or anchor, driven about by every wind of doctrine, and “never in one stay," he who takes heed to this divine light, possesses both a divine compass, chart and anchor, which are "sure and steadfast," and by which he is made "wise unto salvation."
And what is more: the evidences by which the Scriptures are found to be the only and infallible rule of faith and practice, bright, and burning as they now are, are ever increasing. Events which, at the time the Scriptures were in their several parts written, were in the womb of time, have many of them come forth, and many more shall yet be brought into existence,
giving by their testimony increasing magnitude and effulgence to this radiant light of Divine truth. Monuments silent for ages, and ruins buried for thousands of years from the notice of mankind, are now vocal, and coming forth from the tomb of their supposed oblivion, are proclaiming, as with the united voices of all past generations, the truth, and certainty, and inspiration of the Scriptures. Even now, the day has but begun to dawn, and the day-star to arise upon our hearts, and this evidence and attestation to the Scriptures, as the word of God, shall shine more and more, until the unclouded blaze of perfect conviction shines with noon-tide brilliance on every darkened mind of man.
It is thus that the Psalmist also, describes the word of God, -fully developed in the gospel. of his Son—as being the true light imaged by the light of the natural sun.
Like the sun,
it is intended for all men, adapted to all, and to be communicated to all. It is the only source of real, certain, and infallible truth, on all subjects superhuman and divine. There is no speech nor language, where its voice is not, or is not to be heard. In its light alone, we see light, and destitute of it, millions "sit as in the region and shadow of death," and "perish for lack of knowledge." This word of God is, and it alone is, perfect to restore the soul from error to truth, from sin to righteousness, from doubt to certainty. It alone convinces of sin, holds forth a Saviour, is the means of grace, a rule of conduct, a standard of faith, a source of wisdom, unveiling to the darkened vision of reason the wonderful nature, and works, and ways, and will, and worship, and purposes, and mercy, of God, and thus enlightening the eyes.
To be a christian, then, is to believe that Moses and the prophets, Christ and his Apostles, were endued with divine authority to teach all that they taught, and enforce all that they enjoined, and that God will verify in this world, and in the world to come, all that they have foretold, -it is, in short, cordially and with our hearts, to believe and act upon the truth that the Scriptures are the only rule of our faith and practice, of our hopes and fears, and that to add to, or take from, to modify or exchange any of their truths, is to endanger the only “foundation which God has laid in Zion.”
In what relation, then, does reason stand to Scripture and Scripture to reason? To perceive this with clearness, let us remember what has been determined concerning reason.
son is that intelligent nature by which man is capable of thinking,—of discerning the relation of cause and effect, of receiving and distinguishing testimony,-of weighing evidence,—of forming opinions,—of attaining knowledge, -of becoming acquainted with what is duty,—and of acting upon it under a sense of deep and solemn responsibility. This reason, we have seen, is limited in its capacity, by its own finite nature, and in its field of observation and experience by the senses, to which, as inlets of sensation and organs of perception, it is at present allied. What is beyond this sphere, reason can only know by
. testimony, or remain ignorant of altogether, as is the case in reference to a great part of the things by which it is surrounded, and universally, as it regards their essences.
Of course, this must be much more evidently and necessarily the case, as it relates to all things spiritual, supernatural and divine. This is an unknown region, which, like the terra incognita of earth, can only be surmised and conjectured, but of which we can have certain knowledge only so far as our actual observation and discovery in the one case, and actual testimony in the other, really extend. Both may be, to a certain extent, comprehensible by reason, when the means of judging of their existence and attributes is brought within its reach. In both, there will be much to be believed, as, for instance, the essense of things, which, with its present capacity, it never can comprehend. The belief, in regard to both, of all that is proved to be true, is most reasonable, and the attempt to explain or to dogmatize upon what is not proved or revealed, or comprehensible, is most unreasonable and absurd, yea, most sinful and impious.
But reason is not only limited. It is imperfect. It is not infallible. It is not omniscient, nor are its bodily organs absolutely perfect. It is, therefore, liable to misapprehension, perversion and mistake. To err is human. Infallibility is the prerogative only of Divinity. This imperfect and limited nature characterizes man as a creature "made a little lower than the angels,” and not merely as a fallen and sinful creature. Adam, in Paradise, needed, and received, and rejoiced in, the instruction, guidance and holiness, imparted to him by his allgracious and merciful Creator.
But now, man is a fallen and sinful, as well as a limited and imperfect being, and the Divine communion, holiness, and guidance, originally imparted to him, are, by his own sin, withdrawn. As it was in God's light man's reason saw perfectly, holily and wisely, so, when that light is withheld, reason is left to its own feeble imperfection, and sees but dimly. A disordered heart ever enveloping it in a misty haze, it is seduced into error, mistakes truth for falsehood and falsehood for truth, regards evidence with attention or inattention, and investigates it thoroughly or imperfectly, according to the wishes of the heart. The understanding is itself darkened, and it will not come unto the light.
Fooling the follower betwixt shade and shining. While this limited, imperfect and perverted character of human reason has been manifested in every department of knowledge, it has been most lamentably exhibited in all inquiries into things divine. This was to be expected. These things lie beyond the field of sensible observation, experience and proof. We know not what life is, or what the soul is, or what spirit is, or how these act upon matter. And if thus ignorant concerning ourselves, and of what is within us, and constitutes ourselves, how can we know or comprehend that great Spirit who is infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent! How God, thus infinite, can be good, and yet man evil,—how God can be gracious, and yet man miserable,how man can be free, and yet absolutely dependent,-how all things past, present and to come, can be present to God's knowledge, power, wisdom, and government, and yet the liberty of second causes remain unhindered,—these are difficulties, arising, not from revelation, but from the nature of things as they exist, and which, independently of revelation, reason has found to be incomprehensible, and the source of endless speculations and contradictory theories.
In thoughts more elevate sages have reasoned high
Whether human reason by its own unaided powers could ever have attained to the knowledge of God's being, attributes, or providence, or of man's future destiny in a world to come, or of the true origin of man's present contrarieties of feeling, character and judgment, or of the way in which the fears of death, and of evil after death, and of evil during life from