Obrázky na stránke

These are plain questions of FACT, the existence of which like that of all historical facts, is to be ascertained by the evidence of testimony. Here, again, reason may employ her powers, in applying to the external evidences of divine revelation, which are so many external facts, all the principles and rules of criticisin by which the certitude of testimony is established. · But, when reason has discovered and ascertained the fact of divine revelation, there she must stop. Reason has, indeed, a right to be satisfied that God has spoken.' But when it is made certain, by satisfactory extrinsic evidence, that he has really spoken; reason has no right, she is not qualified por competent, to sit in judgment on the TRUTH, or JUSTICE, of what God has taught or commanded. Reason herself teaches, that it is the duty of man to do homage to the truth and veracity of God, by submitting his understanding to the obedience of faith, and by believing, implicitly and firmly, whatever God has reveuled; as it is his duty to do homage to the wisdom and justice of God, by submitting his will to the obedience of the divine law, and by faithfully doing whatever God has commanded.

But what, then, becomes of religious liberty? If by religious liberty it be only inéant, that every man should be at liberty to inquire into the existence of the fact of divine revelation, and to examine the evidence of the testimonies brought to ascertain its reality, it is clear that this is the natural right of every rational creature. The same must be said of the right that each one has, to examine the evidence of the extrinsic motives of credibility, relative to the divinely established medium, by which the revealed doctrines are to be communicated, with certitude, to mankind. Without this, we should be exposed to the danger of mistaking the erroneous opinions of men for the revealed truths of God, and of being the dupes of every impostor or self-authorized fanatical teacher.

If by religious liberty be meant a right, to believe or to disbelieve what is certainly revealed by the God of truth, and what is proposed as revealed to our belief, by an authority, which God himself has commissioned to promulgate his revealed law, and which he has commanded us to obey : no such right can exist. For it is as wrong and as criminal to refuse to believe an article of doctrine, which God bas certainly taught, as it is to refuse to observe a moral duty, which God has certainly commanded.

But is not the mind of man as free as air ? If it is to be fixed, by what is it to be fixed but by the evidence of truth? In answer to this, I ask, is the mind more free than the will? Is not the will of man subject to the supreme will and command of God? Though it be free, is it not under a moral obligation of obeying the divine command, which is a restriction on its liberty ? May not God, who has a right to command the will to observe the moral precept, which he has given, have also a right to command the understanding to assent to the doctrine he has revealed? But can the mind reasonably assent to a doctrive without evidence of its truth? Certainly not; without either intrinsic evidence, if the doctrine be the object of intrinsic ; or without extrinsic, if the doctrine be the object of extrinsic evidence. Thus the mind assents to the truth of mathematical doctrines, on the intrinsic evidence of mathematical demonstrations; it assents to the truth of historical assertions, on the extrinsic evidence of human testimony; it assents to the truth of revealed doctrines, on the extrinsic evidence of the testimony of God.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


GIVEN IN THE ACT OF THE DIVINE REVELATION OF THESE DoctrinES.—Shewn from the nature of the question from the reasoning of St. Paulfrom the natural method of coming to the true and certain knowledge of the will of a Legislator. :.

Ir bas been shewn that the certitude of the truth of the revealed doctrines of Christianity cannot be obtained by the medium of intrinsic evidence; it follows, therefore, that it can be obtained only by extrinsic evidence, or by the evidence of the testimony of God. :r..",".;

The testimony of God must be, in the nature of things, the only proper medium of ascertaining the truth of these revealed doctrines; because these doctrines have for their objects, either the nature of God or the designs and works of God. To whom is the nature of God perfectly known, but to God himself? To whom are the designs and works of God perfectly known, but to God himself? God only has a perfect and comprehensive knowledge of his own nature, designs, and works; therefore, his manifestation or revelation of them is the proper medium by which the truth of them can be ascertained.

The eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him. The knowledge of the designs and works of God in favour of man could never have been acquired, either by the testimony of the senses, or by the demonstrations of human reason. But to us God. HATH REVEALED them by his spirit. For the spirit of God searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God. No other can know his designs or intentions, unless he manifest them. For what man knoweth the The question, whether there really are, or are not, thrée persons in God, is indeed a question of FACT. ** We may take, as another example, the doctrine, that *** Jesus Christ is both God and man," or that “ two natures,

the divine and human, are united in one person, in Christ.” With what self-evident principle of natural science is this doctrine connected, so as to afford a means of demonstrating its truth by intrinsic evidence ? To what principle is it evidently opposed, so as to afford a means of demonstrating the falsity of this doctrine, by demonstrating its evident repúgnance to some self-evident proposition ? . In every man, are there not two distinct substances, a body and a soul, the one material and divisible, the other spiritual and indivisible, united in one person ? By what speculative principle of natural science could human reason have demonstrated the possibility of this hypostatical union in man, if the possibility had not been demonstrated by the fact? To what principle of natural science could the doctrine of this union be demonstrated to be evidently repugnant? * The question whether two natures are hypostatically united

ju one person in Christ, or whether they are not, is a question * of FACT.' The speculative obscurities which surround tlie question concerning the possibility of the mystery—and the objections brought against it, amount only to obscurities—are, no evidence against the Fact of its existence, if that be shewn by the evidence of testimony. --- Even these natural mysteries of the substance and powers of the human soul, and of the hypostatical union of body and soul in man, present great obscurities to our minds, when we examine them intrinsically ; nor is this obscurity dispelled by any light of intrinsie: evidence. How much more must the mind of man be overpowered with awful obscurity, when it ventures to search into the majestic glory of the divine nature! How must man be confounded, in his daring attempt to measure omnipotence by his own weakness! The Almighty dwells in light, inaccessible to the natural powers of human reason. Corporeal vision is sometimes obscured by the overpowering rays of the blazing sun.

As, therefore, the doctrines relating to the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation have no intrinsic connexion with


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.

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 his 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,

« PredošláPokračovať »