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UNREASONABLENESS OF THE DOCTRINE.
Luke xii. 57.— Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right.'
The sentiment that God will punish a portion of his intelligent offspring without mercy and without end, has long and extensively prevailed in the christian world; and, indeed, at the present day, it is considered by many one of the fundamental and essential doctrines of the gospel. Such is the veneration in which this principle is held by many professing christians, that a denial of it is considered a denial of the scriptures; and any attempts to refute, or do it away from the minds of men, are looked on as so many attempts to sap the foundation of Christianity, and to overthrow the whole super
That this principle of doctrine should have found its way into the church, in company with the mass of other corruptions, which were introduced from the philosophy of the ancients, and the theology of the pagans; and that it should have been retained as a constituent principle of Christianity during the continuance of the dark ages, is not at all surprising. But, that chris
tians, in the present enlightened age of the world, should continue to adhere to it with such unyielding pertinacity, would be a matter of real astonishment, were not one other circumstance taken into consideration. When the arm of civil power was extended for the protection of the church, and for the propogation of that religion which was established in the world in opposition to worldly power and wisdom, an unwarrantable degree of authority was conferred on the clergy, who never could be accused of neglecting any means of increasing this authority, and rendering it permanent. For this purpose the degrading principle that, in the concerns of religion, reason should be wholly disregarded, and its clearest dictates rejected, was introduced, and strenuously urged upon the people at large.
Although, at the present day, but very few can be found, who will openly advocate and defend this principle in its full extent, yet the influence of it on the minds of many is plainly discoverable. To what but this shall we attribute the repugnance which is so often seen, to reason on the subject of religion? When we urge the unreasonableness of some particular point or principle of doctrine, we are often met with the assertion that human reason is depraved-that it is an unsafe guide, and we must be cautious how we use it, or yield ourselves to its influence. On all other subjects but religion, men generally disposed to be reasonable beings; and the more important the subject the more carefully and closely they will reason. But on this, the most important of all subjects which can
engage the attention of rational beings, and one which requires the most full and dispassionate use of reason, there are many who seem resolved entirely to set it aside, and to disregard its plainest dictates. Some will even go so far as to attempt a justification of this course of conduct; and will introduce a train of arguments, and a variety of reasons to convince you that they are right in rejecting reason. Thus, to borrow the pertinent language of another, they will reason against reason, use reason against the use of reason, and offer a very good reason why reason is good for nothing.'
But while some reject the proper use of reason in the affairs of religion, there are others who run into the opposite extreme, and reject every thing which is not completely within the reach, or comprehension of their reason. This is à fruitful source of skepticism and infidelity, as will be more fully seen when I come to speak more particularly of the proper use and office of reason in the affairs of revelation and religion. There are many things above the perfect comprehension of reason; and yet we know they 'exist. We cannot tell in what manner inert and unconscious matter could be so organized as to constitute our own living and sensitive bodies;-how from it the beating heart and heaving lungs could be formed; or how it could be converted into that vital fluid which circulates with such rapidity and regularity through the whole human system. Yet of all this we are perfectly conscious; we know it is so; and we are satisfied beyond a rational doubt of the
existence of a great First Cause, sufficiently wise and powerful to produce all these effects. In order therefore, to be consistent, the skeptic should either contend with some visionary philosophers, that there is no such thing as matter, or a material universe in existence, because his reason cannot point out the manner in which they exist; or else admit that God may make a revelation of an existence to man hereafter, and of circumstances attending that existence which are above the comprehension of his reason.
In order that the subject may be clearly understood, let us inquire in the first place, what is reason? In answering this question, it will not, I presume, be considered improper to introduce the definition given of it by the learned Mr. Locke. He says it is 'that faculty whereby man is supposed to be distinguished from beasts, and wherein it is evident he surpasses them.' Reason, in its operations is fourfold. "The first and highest' degree of it is the discovering and finding out of truths; the second, the regular and methodical disposition of them; the third is, the perceiving their connexion; and the fourth, making a right conclusion from them.' The first and great object of reason is to discover truth. This it attempts to accomplish by a careful examination and comparison of things and principles which are known to exist,-by following causes to the various effects which they are capable of producing; or by searching out those causes from the effects which obviously have been produced. In this manner maný important and useful truths are brought to light;
many of the operations and phenomena of nature. are discovered and satisfactorily explained; and in this manner we are enabled to 'look through nature, up to nature's God.' But there is a point beyond which human reason cannot go; and although it teaches us that there must be an infinite First Cause of all things, yet it can tell us nothing of his character, or of his purpose in giving us existence. There are other important and interesting questions which it cannot solve; whether we shall exist beyond the grave; and if so, what will be our constitutions in eternity, are inquiries beyond its reach. Hence, in order to answer these questions satisfactorily, revelation becomes indispensable. But how are we to satisfy ourselves that such a revelation has been given us? Or admitting it has been given, how are we to ascertain the truths it contains, but by the aid of reason? In short, why are the Holy scriptures any more a revalation to man than the beasts of the field, if it be not on the ground that man is capable by his reason of understanding them?
We may now notice the connexion subsisting between reason and revelation; and also the proper office of reason in the concerns of religion. Revelation is addressed to reasonable beings; its principles and requirements are all reasonable; and it is only through the medium of reason, that we are convinced the scriptures contain a revelation from God to man. Hence, as the justly celebrated writer already mentioned observes, Reason is natural revelation, whereby the Eternal Father of light, and fountain of