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II. Review of Prof. Sassnett on Female Education,
VI. Hebrew Literature, (continued from p. 300,)
ERRATA TO NO. 4.
More than two hundred years ago, Lord Bacon marked, "A treatise on the limits of reason in spiritual matters,'* as a grand desideratum in the theological literature of the world. This deficiency still exists. Scraps of learning on this subject may indeed be found in various systems of theology; but an exhaustive discussion of it, such as is at all commensurate with its transcendent importance, we can no where find. This is to be the more lamented, because of the good effects which such a treatise would naturally tend to produce. It " would be an opiate,” says Bacon, “to stay and bridle, not only the vanity of curious speculations, wherewith the schools labor, but the fury of controversies, wherewith the church laboreth."* In so far as it would have this effect, as well as in other ways, it would certainly conduce to the fuller, the brighter, and more satisfactory development of religious truth.
* Advancement of Learning. VOL. VII.-1
Some of the reasons why greater attention has not been given to this incalculably important subject are sufficiently obvious. One is, that “the fury of controversies” has raged with such continued violence as scarcely to allow us the leisure to determine the legitimate grounds and weapons of our warfare. Most writers on theology, from a premature devotion to system, have found it, or imagined it, their interest to cling to revelation, without a due regard to reason; or else, on the other hand, to laud and magnify reason at the expense of revelation. Some have either openly quarrelled with reason, or put such slights and insults upon her, as to bring her quite into disgrace, at least with themselves; while others from an infinite love and fondness for reason, that is, for their own reason, have converted revelation itself into a mere echo of the oracle within. With some reason is so full of darkness and stupidity that it is only fit to be trodden under foot, while revelation is all in all; with others reason is so full of majesty and light, that revelation itself must condescend to reflect its lustre. Now all this is wrong, decidedly wrong. It has got up an unnatural warfare between two things; which, of all things on earth, are most perfectly adapted to dwell together in the sweetest and most loving embraces. For there is, indeed, no more opposition between reason and revelation, between the intellectual vision of man and the light of the glorious gospel, than there is between the effulgence of the sun and the glad eye which beholds it. It is a most unholy warfare, this in which their friends have embroiled them; and one that is most injurious to the interests of both. For with still greater truth and propriety may we say of reason and revelation, what Lord Bacon has so eloquently said of the rational and empirical faculties in man; namely, that “their
* Advancement of Learning.
inauspicious repudiations and divorces have hitherto disturbed every thing in the great family of, mankind.” Let us see then if we may not do something with a view to bring about a reunion and harmony between them. If we may not do something to induce the too exclusive friends of reason to restore revelation to that awful reverence which is her due; and the too exclusive friends of revelation to permit reason once more, and with joyful hearts, to minister at the altars of the Most High. If we may not, by despising neither but loving both, restore the one to her rights without impairing the claims and authority of the other.
We shall begin with the exclusive friends of revelation. Luther, it is well known, is one of the great captains who led the way in this unnatural war against reason. Nor are his outcries ever so passionate and so loud as when reason is most at war with himself. It is precisely in the article of consubstantiation, which is to transubstantiation about what the varioloid is to the small pox, that he seems most determined to crush human reason and trample it in the dust. So shall we always find it; for the theologian who has a manifest absurdity for us to swallow, will always begin by denouncing and abusing reason as a blind judge and most arrogant caviller. He would have us to ask no questions; but simply to put away all our proud, carnal, conceited notions; and, approaching him with the humility of a little child, meekly shut our eyes and open our mouths for its reception.
But to return. Luther is about to hold a disputation at Marburg on the thesis of consubstantiation. Few assemblies have ever met under circumstances of more thrilling interest than those which attend this conference of the great lights and leaders of the reformation. It is to be decided whether the friends of the reformation shall be one, or whether they shall be divided; whether they shall present a solid and unbroken front to the enemy, or whether they shall be at war among themselves. Hence all eyes are turned towards them with solicitude, and all hearts beat with anxiety. For “the great men who had led the people in their footsteps on the plains of Saxony, on the banks of the Rhine, and in the losty valleys of Switzerland, were there met face to face : the chiefs of Christendom, separated from Rome, were come together to see if they could remain one. '*
Luther enters the assembly. He approaches the tables, and taking a piece of chalk he writes on the black velvet cover the four words “Hoc est corpus meum,” with which he is to conquer and subdue his adversaries. He is reminded by the Landgrave's chancellor, and in the prince's name, that " the object of the colloquy is the re-establishment of union." If ever in the history of the world there was a time when reason and revelation should have met together to bless mankind with their united counsels, that time was then at hand. But Luther had turned a deaf ear to the voice of reason. He had already accounted it an unholy thing, and fit only to be cast forth from the sanctuary of God. “I protest,” says he, " that I differ from my adversaries with regard to the doctrine of the Lord's supper, and that I shall always differ from them. Christ has said, this is my body. Let them show that a body is not a body. I reject reason, common sense, carnal arguments and mathematical proofs. God is above mathematics. We have the word of God, we must adore it and perform it.”+
It is suggested, that the words “this is my body,” might possibly be a figure of speech, and reason seems to confirm this suggestion; for surely, if any one, pointing to a picture of the Virgin Mary, should say, that is the mother of Christ, no person in his right mind would understand the speaker to mean that the picture was really and literally the Saviour's mother. Every one would see, that in perfect conformity with the usage of all languages, he had merely, by a figure of speech, put the thing signified in the place of the sign. But vain is the appeal to reason, which has already been cast out and rejected. “This is my body,” still repeated Luther, pointing with his finger to the words written before him.
* D'Aubigne, book xiii.