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to emerge from the darkness of the “Christianity not founded on Arguhuman understanding, or to rise ment,” in like manner, says; “ That above the prejudices of a corrupt person best enjoys faith who never heart.
asked himself one single question Under these circumstances, a few about it, and never dealt at all in pages of a religious miscellany may the evidence of reason.” Voltaire not be misemployed in an endeavour writes; “ We believe by our faith, to exhibit the real office of reason and not by our reason, which we in matters of religion (grate- take special care not to listen to; fully receive and rejoice,” said for when faith speaks, reason must be Locke, “ in the light of revelation dumb.” The same ironical argument which sets me at rest in many things, is frequently heard in the present the manner whereof my poor reason day. Certain modern physiologists, can by no means make out to me. for example, in alluding to the docI readily believe what God has trine of the existence of the human declared, though my reason find soul, and various fundamental topics difficulties in it which it cannot of Divine revelation, represent all master.” This simple declaration such subjects as mysteries to be of this eminent man, conveys the implicitly credited, though unhapsentiment of every Christian heart; pily opposed to every rational deit is not only scriptural, but, what- duction of science and experiment. ever may be objected to it by the They are doctrines, forsooth, "too pride of human intellect, it is, when sublime for human reason !" They duly examined, consistent with right are to be treated as speculations, reason, and the boasted moral fit- which we should necessarily have ness of things.
pronounced absurd and irrational, With a view to embrace the had not deference to Divine authoprincipal topics of our inquiry, it is rity taught us to withhold the proposed first to shew, in opposition conclusion, though we had reguto one class of errors, that reason larly arranged the premises. It is has a lawful jurisdiction in matters of not necessary to remark on the revelation; and secondly, in reply obvious disingenuousness of this to the opposite, to point out the sort of argument. Let the sceptic just limits of that jurisdiction. contend that Christianity is irra
To prove so obvious a truth as that tional, and therefore untrue; we our rational faculties have a lawful shall then know how to meet him jurisdiction in matters of revelation, with the weapons of reason; while would be a superfluous task, had we admit, with him, that whatever not the proposition been frequently is really irrationalis untrue, we denied. Its impugners may be class.. shall have it in our power to dised under the following divisions : prove that Christianity is irrational :
1. Certain Sceptics have sneer- but let him not lay down, as the ingly urged this objection, with a basis of his argument, an ironical view to disparage revelation, by re- hypothesis, on which no truth can presenting its disclosures, not only by any possibility be grounded. as above, which is a fact, but, 2. The Enthusiast is more sincere which is not a fact, as contrary to in his objection; and it is chiefly the light of a rational philosophy. by means of his mistaken repreThus Bayle blasphemously ob- sentations, that the sceptic is enserves ; “ It seems to be a mark abled to give plausibility to the ob. of God's sovereign pleasure, that jection which has just been mentionwe should not arrive at certainty ed. It is urged by various classes in any thing, seeing he has given of mystics, and even in some other exceptions in his holy word to al departments of the Christian church, most all the common notices of that religion has no alliance with reason.” The Deistical author of human reason; that every evange
lical doctrine and precept is con- as to the doctrine of a future state, taminated, if made the subject of or the existence of a God. intellectual argumentation. Faith Now in all these cases, there is is stated to be a simple pereuasion, an assumption, grounded neither on wrought in the mind by the Holy reason nor on Scripture, that the Spirit, holding an empire, not only rationative faculties of the human above, but wholly unconnected with, mind have no jurisdiction in matters the exercise of the rational facul- of religion. ties. The subject of it believes, 1. The supposition is not grounded because it is impossible for him to on reason; for reason justly vindidisbelieve : he neither asks for, nor cates to itself the majesty of being admits, any proof of the truth of an express gift of God, bestowed his opinions : he feels them to be upon man for purposes of the hightrue; not however in that measur- est moment; to be diligently used ed sense in which the intimate in the direction of his affairs, temadaptation of the disclosures of poral and spiritual; and not to be revelation, to the actual condition despised or disparaged for any end, of human nature, carries an evi- however specious, or apparently dence of its truth to every sincere sacred. If we discard reason, revebeliever, but in a mystical and lation must fall with it ; for not only unaecountable manner, in conse- the powers of the understanding quence of some undefined and un- employed in the investigation of definable impulse, which is to stand Divine truth are an exertion of reaproxy for that diligent exercise of son, but even the cultivation of the the understanding, which, with affections of the soul must proceed humble prayer for the guidance and through the same channel, else our instruction of the Holy Spirit, is, devotion to God, instead of being doubtless, one of the principal what the Scriptures denominate “means of grace" appointed for our it, “ a reasonable service,” would advancement in religious truth.
be but a reverie of the ima3. The Papist, in excluding the gination, unstamped by the impress exercise of reason in matters of of duty or of truth. Indeed, so religion, acts upon a principle dif- plain is it that reason must have ferent from that of either the Scep- some jurisdiction in matters of revetic or the Mystic. He assumes lation, that the very consideration that the church, though he cannot of the question is itself an exercise define what he means by that of that jurisdiction. The enthusiast laxly employed term, is infallible; and the papist think they have reathat her doctrines, be they as irra- son in decrying reason : their very tional as they may, are indisputably arguments, however feeble or illo. true; and that, if reason is to be gical, are an involuntary proof that employed at all in judging of mat. they recognise the exercise of the ters of religion, it is not for the understanding ; so that they unconperpose of inquiring what are the sciously pay homage, even where declarations of the revealed will of they deny that it is due: they reason, God, but what the church says while they profess only to believe. they are; thus silencing every Through no medium but that of seeming difficulty by implicit faith our reason can any proposition, in a supposed infallible interpreter. whether theological or otherwise, And what renders this incongruity find its way to the mind or heart of the more glaring is, that even the man. Even the rapt prophet, reinterpreter does not profess to guide ceiving his communications of heathe mind by argument, but requires venly wisdom unerringly from the obedience as much to what cannot Fountain of omniscient intelligence be proved, as to what can ; to tran- itself, makes use of the powers of substantiation, for example, as much his understanding. He ceases not
to be rational, because he is inspired; Lord is right;" it is rcasonable, it nay, he proves that his reason has will bear deliberate examination ; acquired its most sublime elevation, it was no less established by arguwhen, whatever may be the dictates ment than confirmed by miracles. of his inclination, or the opinions St. Paul “ reasoned in the syna. of his fellow-morials, he silences gogue, and persuaded the Jews and all with that most reasonable of the Greeks." Jehovah, in his conarguments, that highest of demon- troversies, if we may reverently use strations, “ Thus saith the Lord.” such an expression, with his chosen And doubtless, those celestial intel• people, referred the decision to their ligences themselves, who drink im- own judgment and conscience: mediately from the infinite Source “ Come now," said he, “ and let us of knowledge, are endowed with an reason together.” And, so far from attribute somewhat analogous to, the exercise of the understanding though in excellence and operation being hostile to the simplicity of far above, the human faculty of rea- Scriptural belief, the Apostle exson; a faculty which not only dise pressly classes “unreasonable men tinguishes us from the “ brutes with those that have not faith.” that perish,” but is one of the The Scriptures then plainly adfeatures of our resemblance to the mit of, and even enjoin, the exerinhabitants of heaven itself. Reve cise of our reason in matters of lation introduces Reason into a new religion. Yet it is equally certain, world, and exhibits to her treasures that they continually urge the neof wisdom which she could never cessity of implicit faith ; that they by herself have discovered ; but she represent the human mind as natudoes not bind her in chains, or rally incompetent to the knowledge eject her from her dominions, so of sacred subjects, and point out the long as she is content to confine absolute necessity of Divine instrucherself within her proper sphere of tion to make us “ wise unto saloperation.
vation.” So emphatically indeed 2. Nor is the hypothesis, that rea- is this the case, that St. Paul did son has no jurisdiction in matters not scruple to declare, that the of revelation, more tenable on the weapons of the Christian and minisprinciples of Scripture,than of com- terial warfare are not carnal, but
The whole Bible is an mighty through God, to the pulling appeal to our rational faculties, as down of strong holds ; casting down truly as to the affections of our imaginations, and every high thing hearts. How are we instructed, for that exalteth itself against the example, to judge of human charac- knowledge of God, and bringing ter in matters of religion ? By mere into captivity every thought to the impression ? by dreams, or reve- obedience of Christ.”
« The naries, 'or unaccountable preposses- tural man understandeth not the sions? No;—“ By their fruits ye things of the Spirit of God, for shall know them.” Our Lord him- they are spiritually discerned.” It self appeals to the test of impartial is not merely with the understand
“ What! do ye not judge ing, but “ with the heart,” that what is right?” His Apostles fre-“man believeth unto righteousness.” quently make similar references. St. Paul, speaking of “ the deceivThus St. Paul says,-“ Prove all ableness of unrighteousness in them things ;" “ I speak as unto wise that perish,” states, as the cause of men ; judge ye what I say.” And this delusive influence, not that they St. Peter expressly enjoins us to did not use their reason, though “ be ready to give to every man a that was true, at least as to its reason of the hope that is in us." highest exercise, but, that “ they Revelation shrinks not from the se- received not the love of the truth verest scrutiny: “ The word of the that they might be saved." The
Scriptures abound with similar sen- extends : it is only by mistaking timents. “ Evil men,” however her province, or abusing her powacute their reason, " understand ers, that her authority can ever not judgment; but they that seek become mischievous. Indeed, so the Lord understand all things.” imperative is her claim to be heard, Nor is this the consequence of mere that we may lay it down as an inattention only; for the mind may axiom in theology, quite as much be applied to the subject, and ap- as in subjects of human science, plied powerfully, and yet the re- that whatever is really contrary to sult be unfavourable. “ A scorner right reason cannot possibly be seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not.” true ; it cannot have been derived
Here then is an apparent para- from God, nor ought it to be imposed dox, which it is of great practical or admitted as an article of faith. importance to reconcile; in order, The repeated cautions of Scripture on the one side, that the self-sufficient on the subject, relate invariably philosophist may cease to arraign to what is there called “carnal” the mysterious disclosures of the reasoning ; which is not the exerDivine record, before the fallible cise of right reason, but of reason bar of his own weak and incom- perverted by the original corruption petent reason ; and, on the other, of our nature, blinded by unholy that the enthusiast may be warned appetites and evil conduct, and against the opposite error of deny- exerting itself, not in its legitimate ing the legitimate jurisdiction of a sphere, but in a region where its faculty which was bestowed upon proudest soarings are but presumpus for purposes of the highest mo- tious impotence and vanity. ment. Let us endeavour to expli- Some important theological cate this apparent difficulty. points, however, are strictly within
We have arrived at the seemingly the proper limits of a justly disciparadoxical conclusion, that both plined reason; the chief of which common sense and Scripture ac- is to examine whether a record proknowledge the use of reason in fessing to be a revelation from God, matters of revelation; and yet that is in reality entitled to that distincthe right knowledge of revelation tion ; and if so, what are its contents. is not a mere result of the exercise Nay, it is not only within the lawful of intellect, but is the offspring of jurisdiction of reason, but it is faith and love, and is conveyed to a bounden and most sacred duty, the mind, and fixed upon the heart, to ask ourselves, Has the Creator by the operation of the Holy Spirit. revealed his will; and if he has, do I In order to solve this paradox, it understand his revelation ? Reason, will be necessary to point out the as we shall further see in a future just limits of that jurisdiction of stage of the argument, has no prereason which has been vindicated; rogative to inquire what God can in order to ascertain which, we may or cannot do; but she may legitiinquire, lst. What particulars are mately ask, “ What can it be proved clearly within these limits; 2d. that God actually has done?” What are clearly beyond thenı ; Now, in applying such an inquiry 3d. What may be considered dis- to the subject of the sacred Scripputable or dangerous in approaching tures, Reason has a large field for these limits.
her allowable operations. She may Ist. Our first head of inquiry is weigh various antecedent questions ; respecting those particulars which such as whether a Divine revelation are clearly within the limits of rea- is possible, and whether certain son, in judging of matters of reve- evidences are adequate proofs of lation.
its authenticity: she may also pur. Reason is an invaluable di- sue her way into an investigation rectrix, so far as her jurisdiction of the history of the alleged reve
lation, its proofs, internal; external, we exist, by mere intuition: we learn and collateral : she may lay down, the obvious qualities of matter as Leslie does in his four memorable around us, from simple sensation; tests for detecting imposture,suitable we ascertain a variety of physical criteria for assisting her inquiries,and and moral truths by argument and may employ all the aids of learning induction; we prove the properties and argument, and the deepest skill of a triangle by mathematical demonof natural and acquired dialectics, stration, but there is not any one to prevent the admission of false of these ways of arriving at truth, conclusions. Having ascertained
more strictly rational than that by the validity of the record, she may which we believe that there existed proceed to analyze its declarations; such a place as Carthage, or as to discriminate, combine, and ar- Bethlehem, or such a personas range its scattered truths; to illus- Scipio Africanus, or the Apostle Paul. trate its statements; to unravel its While, therefore, right reason claims difficulties, and, in short, to study to herself a wide jurisdiction, she and apply its sacred contents to the will be content to effect her purposes full measure of her humble powers. in every department of her empire, Every sermon or other religious by proper means and instruments: composition, every meditation or she will not require the same species conversation on sacred subjects of proof, that the shadow went back every comparison of spiritual things on the dial-plate of Ahaz, as she with spiritual, every argument, in- demands to convince her that the ference, or analogy, is an exemplifi- descent of heavy bodies is in the cation of the vee of reason in mat- duplicate ratio of the time, or that ters of revelation. Reason cedes the motion of projectiles is in the none of her rights by being applied curve of a parabola. She will not to sacred subjects: she may ask for argue on a matter of pure
revelation, proofs of whatever she is urged to precisely in the same way as on a believe ; and she has full authority subject of natural philosophy or to demand that the proofs be suf- mechanics. Nay, we may go furficient in their kind. But the nature ther, and assert, that she will not of those proofs must depend upon the even think it necessary to eradicate subject of investigation; and it is of the kindlier affections of the heart, the greatest importance to take care in order to hold her balance the that, while reason is exerting her more evenly. So far from it, she just right of inquiry, she does not will consider it as perfectly reasonforfeit her name and character, by able, that, in the investigation of asking for what it is unreasonable to subjects of a moral and spiritual kind, demand. It is one of the most im- such affections should be admitted portant offices within the limits of into active exercise, in order to arher jurisdiction, to determine when rive at a knowledge of the truth. she ought to be satisfied; and if she She will not think herself outraged exert this power duly, she will not by such a declaration, as that “he apply the principles which relate to who will do the will of God shall one subject to every other: if, for know of the doctrine ;" she will adexample, she can prove the truth of mit, under all the peculiar circumChristianity by testimony, as she un- stances of the case, that prayer and doubtedly can, she will not think humility, and a desire to know and herself slighted, because it cannot practise the commands of the Albe proved by the science of mathe- mighty, may very reasonably be a matics. An argument may be per part of the process designed by fectly conclusive in its kind, and Him for facilitating the acquisition adapted for its peculiar purpose, and of practical knowledge on sacred yet be incapable of universal appli- subjects. She will feel, that while cation. For instance, we know that she is bound to exercise her office of