Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

self-evident principles, of natural science; as the objects of these doctrines are in reality matters of FACT, they are not the proper object of the faculty of human reason, and consequently the certain knowledge of their truth or falsehood is not to be obtained by the medium of intrinsic demonstrative evidence. . un

. But if we consider the nature of the objects of the doctrines of the Christian Revelation, we shall find that most of them are the determinations and effects of the free will of God. With respect to such, how could human reason decide, by the light of intrinsic evidence, whether God did or did not decree or effect that, which is announced by the revealed doctrine? By what arguments, drawn from the principles of natural science, could it be demonstrated that the revealed doctrine, relatively to its object, is true or false? . .

By what light of intrinsic evidence, by what principles of natural science, could human reason ever discover, Ist. What an offended God did, or did not, require as an atonement for sin? 2d. Whether he did, or did not, decree to send his only begotten Son to be made man, and to offer himself as a victim of atonement for sin ? 3d. What God does, or does not, require on the part of man, that he may receive the benefit of this atonement? 4th. Whether baptism is, or is not, necessary, by the institution and command of God, for the remission of sin? 5th. Whether the grace of God is, or is not, necessary for our salvation ? 6th. Whether God has, or has not, decreed and promised that our body shall be raised again to life at the last day? 7th. Whether God has, or has not, decreed and foretold, that there shall be a particular judgment of each one immediately after his death; and a general judgment of all mankind, at the end of the world ? 8th. Whether God has, or has not, promised a reward of eternal glory to the just ? 9th. Whether God has, or has not, denounced eternal punishments to the wicked, &c. &c.

In these and other revealed doctrines of Christianity, how could human reason demonstrate, from the intrinsic nature of the object, or from its connexion with any principle of natural science, which side of the question is true? How then, could it demonstrate whether the doctrines relating to these objects, which depend solely on the free will of God, are trrie or false? The truth and certitude of such doctrines.. can no more be demonstrated by arguments drawn from .. principles of natural science, than the interior intentions of any individual, or the certitude of any past fact, can be demonstrated by mathematical lines and angles. These doctrines are no more the object of human reason, than sound is the object of the eye.

The existence of tbree persons in one God, and the union of tivo natures in Christ, are matters of fact. The reality of matters of fact is not proved by intrinsic demonstrative evidence, but the extrinsic evidence of testimony. . .

If there are three persons in one God; if there are twonatures united in one person, in Christ; these facts capuot be undone or destroyed by the disbelief or denial of man; any more than the bright rays of the mid-day sun can be extinguished in themselves, by the act of shutting the eye against them. · All that human reason could attempt against the existence of these facts, which are objects of the Christian revelation, would be to demonstrate, to the highest degree of intrinsic evidence, that the possibility of them is repugnant to some self-evident principle of natural science. If this could be demonstrated, to the highest degree of intrinsic evidence, it would be clearly perceived by all, who have given their attention to the subject. But this repugnance certainly is not perceived by thousands of learned men, who have studiously examined this question; and who, after an attentive and impartial examination of it, have sincerely adhered to the belief of the existence of the trinity of persons in one God, and of the union of two natures in Christ, as possible and actual mysteries.

In reality, those who attempt to demonstrate the impossibility of the mysteries, which are objects of divine revelatiori, have a greater load of facts to remove than they are aware of. They must undo, not only the existence of the mysteries themselves, but also all of those historical and miraculous facts, which bear testimony to the fact of the divine revelation of the mysteries. So long as these testimonies remain in evidence, so long as the fact of the revelation of these 'mysteries reinains, supported by such testimonies, solong will the truth of the possibility of the mysteries remain

firmly established. For the fact of God's having revealed any", inystery; for instance, “that in the one divine nature, there are three distinct persons," establishes the existence of it, tiz. of the Trinity of persons in one God; and the establishments of the existence of a thing is the best proof of its possibility." When a philosopher was perplexed by the subtility of a' metaphysical argument, against the possibility of loco-motion, he rose from his seat; and by the act of walking proved the possibility of it, and refuted the sophistry. Those, therefore, who attempt to demonstrate the impossibility of revealed mysteries, must first disprove their existence, to the highest degree of evidence; and undo all the facts by which the certitude of their existence is supported.

When the arguments drawn from the self-evident principles of natural science, to prove intrinsically the natural impossibility of revealed mysteries, are impartially considered, it will appear that they shew nothing more than that the possibility of these mysteries is intrinsically obscure; but not that the impossibility of them is intrinsically evident.

Can the man who denies the existence of the Trinity of persons in God, demonstrate to a higher degree of evidence that the possibility of this mystery is repugnant to any self." evident principle of natural science; than he who denies the fact of the creation of the world, can shew that the possibility": of creation is repugnant to the principle“ ex nihilo nihil fit ?" . And yet how often does it happen that those who deny the mystery of the Trinity, admit of that of the creation; though, when both are intrinsically examined, the impossibility of the one can no more be demonstrated by the self-evident princi- * * ples of natural science, than the impossibility of the other & CHAPTER IV.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE PRINCIPLE OF NOT ADMITTING THE

TRUTH or REVEALED DOCTRINES, UNLESS IT CAN BE PROVED BY INTRINSIC DEMONSTRATIVE EVIDENCE.-Uncertainty in religious doctrines.-Infidelity.These consequences appear in the history of religious opinions, since the changes made in religion in the 16th century.- Reason and revelation not opposed to each other.The province of reason, in the search of

revealed truths.Religious liberty. IF the truth of any one of the revealed doctrines of Christianity can be resonably denied by any individual, because he cannot intrinsically demonstrate it, by shewing the connéxion of the doctrine with some principle of natural science; what mystery, what doctrine of the Christian religion, can such a man consistently support or believe? If on that ground he denies the truth of the doctrine of the real presence, or of transubstantion, must he not, to be consistent with himself, deny the truth of the doctrine of the Trinity of persons in God; of the union of two natures in one person in Christ; of original sin; of the resurrection of the dead; of the eternity of torments in hell ; of the creation of the world; and, indeed, of all the revealed doctrines of Chris. tianity, since they all relate to objects which, intrinsically considered, have no connexion with the principles of natural science! It is evident, therefore, that the inediun of intrinsic demonstrative evidence cannot be reasonably applied to the objects of divine revelation, and that when perversely followed in this respect, as a medium of the certitude of revealed truth, it must lead to uncertainty in matters of religion, and even to absolute infidelity.

This is not a mere speculative and possible consequence of the rule of determining the truth or falsehood of revealed doctrines by the intrinsic demonstration of the agreement or disagreement of the objects of these doctrines with the principles of natural science. This consequence has been fully proved to have been realized in the history of religious opinions, that have been adopted by those who have folowed this rule of judgment. This has been shewn by a multitude of writers; and lately by a Protestant minister, the late Baron de Starck, in his “ Entrétiens Philosophiques," translated into English, under the title of “ Philosophical Dialogues on the Reunion of the different Christian Communions.” Is it not by a direct consequence from this principle, that the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the truth of the Sacred Scriptures, and other articles of revealed religion, are publicly denied, at present, in this country? On what principle can these errors be consistently condemned or d'efuted, by those who admit that the truth or falsehood of the doctrines of revealed religion is to be proved by intrinsic arguments, drawn from the principles of natural science ?

Is then the light of reason to be extinguished by revelation ? Is the total exercise of natural reason to be pro. hibited in the search of religious truths ? No, certainly not. The truths which are the objects of reason and of revelation are distinct, and are .grounded on distinct motives of așsent. Reason and revelation have their separate provinces, in which they may respectively exercise their rights.

Revelation leaves reason free to range over the vast field of nature, and to pursue the study of natural and moral truth by the principles of natural science. Revelation brings a new light to the human mind, by infusing a sublime knowledge of supernatural truths, and by giving additional testimony, perfection, and sanction to the truths and precepts of the moral law of nature. But revelation opposes , no obstacle to discoveries and improvements in the natural .sciences. Indeed, have not civilization and literature been introduced into many countries, by those who introduced the belief of the doctrines of revelation? Has not reason been improved, to the highest degree, in minds enlightened with the knowledge of revealed truths ? Were an Origen, a St. Chrysostom, a St. Augustin, a St. Jerom, in former ages; or a Bossuet, a Fénélon, a Pasel

« PredošláPokračovať »