Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

so far as human reason is concerned, in the apprehension of them, no difference can be discerned. One proposition is just as intelligible as another, provided, that the language employed in both is equally perspicuous. Yet does it not follow that the fucts involved in these propositions are of equally easy apprehension. Some things are, in their very nature, inexplicable, while others are intelligible at first sight. Inattention to this has led to much, and very serious mischief, in the interpretation of the sacred scriptures. That the mind of rational man, which we have above designated by the popular phrase of human reason, has some important office in the apprehension of scriptural truth, every one feels. What that office precisely is, it is the design in this chapter to unfold. The exposition of this subject is rendered necessary, alike from its own intrinsic importance, from the very fatal results which have flowed from its not being well understood, from the proof and illustration of the subject in the preceding chapter, and from the intimate connection which it holds with the entire discussions that we propose.

It must be obvious, that it is of very great moment, in itself, as well as in relation particularly to the subject in hand, we should be able to determine, whether human reason is to sit as judge and umpire, deciding as to what is truth, or whether its entire office is not to perceive, receive and enforce truth not originally excogitated in the human mind. On the decision of this question depends the use that we shall make of the sacred scriptures, and the benefit we shall derive from them.

It is assumed that they are the word of God. reader doubts on this subject, we request him to resort to the proofs so abundantly and so invincibly demonstrative to every unprejudiced mind, of the fact that the things spoken and written by the inspired penmen were delivered

If any

2

"not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." His mind must be dark indeed, and his heart most wretchedly depraved, who can carefully examine the arguments drawn from the miracles performed, and predictions delivered by the apostles and prophets, not to mention any other, without being convin. ced that what Paul said of himself is true of all. "I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, nor was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”' The subject is undoubtedly deserving of the most serious and interested attention of every rational man, and we adjure the reader, if he has the least doubt as to the fact, to lose no time, and spare no pains, to bring this very important question, involving his own eternal interests, to an issue. Let him dismiss prejudice, and read, and weigh, both sides of the question, and decide according to the amount and force of evidence, after a full and impartial examination. We shall not fear the result in his mind. It is nothing but obliguity of heart that can resist the overwhelming power of the demonstrations in the case. The claims of the sacred scriptures are so high, and their asseverations affecting man's personal and eternal interests, so bold, and appalling, and uncompromising, that no man, pretending to act as a reasonable being, cun dismiss this subject with a trivial attention.

Assuming the scriptures to be the word of God, as we do, it is obvious that we claim for them the infallibility of infinite and immutable truth. Thence it is contended, there arises an obligation, on our part, in reference to them, which applies not to any other species of evidence. Believing them to be the word of God, we are bound, by all the authority that God can assert, to receive them "not as

a

1 1 Cor. i !?

2 Gal. i. 11, 12

the word of man, but as they are in truth the word of God." This no one can deny. But some will ask, what is the word of God, and how are we to determine as to it in any and every

case? Here and there are passages of scripture, which are differently understood by different persons and sects.

The Christian world is full of controversy. One party asserts this is the word of God, another it is the word of the devil, and by a summary process they appeal to their respective creeds and confessions of faith, which, after all, are the production of fallible men, and pass sentence of approbation, or of condemnation, according as opinions accord or are discordant with the set form of words. The avowed and practical infidel have alike employed this objection to bolster up themselves in their contempt or neglect of the oracles of God. But if they have rejected the word of the Lord what wisdom is there in them?” While they profess to act a rational part, they do act irrationally; and while they boast of being under the guidance of human wisdom, and claim to themselves the name of pliilosophers, or of philosophical or rational divines, they only furnish metancholy specimens of human folly, and prove that neither common sense or reason will sanction their claims.

A writer of the seventeenth century, in a treatise entitled "Rutional Religion,supposes that there are but three modes in which the truth, or true sense of the word of God itself can be ascertained, viz., by the authori

[ocr errors]

1 1 Thess. ï. 13.

2 Jer. viü. 9. 3 Deus quidem Optimus, maximus, absque controversia est judex supre. mus, inefragabilis; sed is nunc inter litigantes speciale decretum vore sua proprie loquendo non, pronunciat: sicut nec Filius ejus unigenitus judex vivorum ac mortuorum ab eo constitutus. Verbum autem Dei scriptum nobis relictum, non est proprie judex: nam id est norma secundum quam aliquis judicare debct. ' Sicut lex ipsa non judicat proprie, sed secundum legem aliquid ab aliquo judicatur.

ty of the church, or its visible head on earth-the Pope of Rome, or a council, according to the opinion of the Roman Catholics; or by the dictation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the elect, as he alleges the protestants, who call themselves evangelical or reformed, and the enthusiasts called quakers affirm; or by judgment of sound reason in every man, legitimately and strictly examining the word of God. As to the first, we deem it unnecessary to remark. The authority of Popes and councils is no longer respected by the Christian world, whatever may be their aspirings. As to the second, it may suffice to state, that we contend not for preternatural revelations, since the code of scripture is completed, and that, although we acknowledge the agency of the blessed Spirit to be necessary, in order to our arriving at the knowledge of scriptural truth, yet we are not of those who affirm that agency to be by any afflatus, or impression inconsistent with, or not made through the appropriate exercise of our rational powers. Mr. Locke, in his essay concerning the human understanding, has well remarked that “no proposition can be received for divine revelation, or obtain the assent due to all such, if it be contrary to our clear intuitive knowledge. Because this would be to subvert the principles and foundations of all knowledge, evidence and assent whatever," and fanaticism must inevitably assume dominion

Videtur igitur non posse aliter fieri, quam ut in controversiis fidei seu religionis, veritas, et ipsius verbi Dei seu sacræ scripturæ verus sensus, hoc tempore, per aliquem istorum trium modorum habeatur: nempe, aut per Ecclesiæ ejusve capitis visibilis in terra, scili cet pontificis Romani, vive Concilii, authoritatem; ut volunt pontificii, qui sibi Catholicorum Romanorum appellationem vendicant: aut per spiritus sancti in cordibus electorum dictamen, ut statuunt plerique protestantes qui Evangelici vel Reformati nominari volunt; ac aliquatenus similiter ii qui Enthusiastæ atque Quakeri nuncupantur: aut denique per rationis sanæ, in unoquoque homine verbum Dei legitime expendentis judicium; ut existimant alii, aliqui Christiani.-Religio Rationalis A. Wissowatio, pp. 4, 5. 1 B ir. c. 18. $ 5.

[ocr errors]

where an influence or revelation of the Spirit, inconsistent with the proper and judicious exercise of our rational minds is made the arbiter of truth. This remark, however, is not intended to apply to any original revelation which God was pleased to make to the mind of man; but only to that standard of truth found in the impressions which those divinely inspired have communicated to us in words, the ordinary mode of conveying thought from one to another. He that suspended the exercise of the senses in some of His prophets, and gave ideas of objects and subjects, previously unknown and inconceivable, is not to be limited, as to His power and ways of access to the human mind.

Paul undoubtedly obtained ideas when he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words,” which he could not communicate to others, because imparted to him in some sublime mysterious way, “whether in the body or out of the body he could not tell, God knoweth.”! Such revelations however have ceased, and the communications addressed to us by God, are through the medium of the sacred scriptures, an intelligible language, adapted to the ordinary modes of human thought. Whoso pretends to have received a communication in any other way from God, must first work a miracle before we can receive his testimony as the word of God.

The reader has perhaps already inferred, that the third and last method of arriving at the knowledge of the truth or true sense of the word of God, viz., hy the judgment of sound reason carefully examining and determining what is the word of God, is the only available mode. The truth of this conclusion will depend very much on the meaning attached to the phrase human reason. If by it is meant the regular process of argument, where, by comparing one idea with another, we elicit a third, more correctly called reasoning, the conclusion is untenable. But if nothing

1 2 Cor. xü. 14.

« ZurückWeiter »