Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

the word of man, but as they are in truth the word of God.' 91 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?”?2 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 melancholy 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 authority 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 aflatus, 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 mustinevitably assume dominion 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.

1 1 Thess. ï. 13.

2 Jer. viii. 9. 3 Deus quidem Optimus, maximus, absque controversia est judes 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 juder: nam id est norma secundum quam aliquis judicare debet. ' Sicut lex ipsa non judicat proprie, sed secundum legem aliquid ab aliquo judicatur.

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 Ecclesiae ejusve capitis visibilis in terra, scili cet pontificis Romani, sive Concilii, authoritatem; ut volunt pontifici, 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 rerbum Dei legitime expendentis judicium; ut existimant alii, aliqui Christiani.- Religio Rationalis A. Wissowatio, pp. 4, 5. 1 B. ir. c. 18. $ 5.

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.

more is meant, than that the power, or as Locke defines it, the "faculty whereby man is supposed to be distinguished from the beasts,” the mind itself as capable of perceiving and receiving truth, is the medium of our knowledge of the word of God, we do not object. All truth, of whatever kind, and supported by whatever evidence, makes its appeal directly to man's rational nature, and it is the percipient thinking principle itself that receives or rejects. But this is not the idea which is attached to the :phrase by many.

When it is contended by some, that human reason is the judge of truth--that the scriptures are but the law (the norma) of judgment, and not God expressing his decisions, they mean, that there are certain intuitive principles or axioms, which the mind apprehends to be immutably true, and by means of which it forms a judgment, whether the revelations of the scriptures are to be received or rejected. For example, it is assumed that every father is prior to his son, every generation has some beginning of existence, the Most High God and man are unequal, every body is finite, every true man is a true person. These propositions, and many other of a like character which might be suggested are apprehended as absolute truisms. Now it is alleged by our opponents, that to the test of such postulates and axioms we are to subject the revelations of scriptúre, in order to discover their truth or to decide whether they are or are not the word of God. Accordingly, they go to work and throwing the different doctrines of faith into this alembic, they quickly resolve them into mere vapour, and pronounce them altogether devoid of truth. How spurious are such arguments! Every father is prior to his son: but God is the Father of Jesus Christ:-therefore Jesus Christ was not from all eternity with God.

Every generation has some beginning of existence: but Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father: therefore Jesus

[graphic]

Christ is not God, who is without beginning of days or end

of years.

The Most High God and man are not equal. Jesus Christ was man: therefore Jesus Christ was not equal with God.

Every body is finite. But Jesus Christ had a body: therefore He was not infinite.

Every true man is a human person: but Jesus Christ was truly man: therefore He was not God, but a human per

son.

Against such an use of reason we solemnly protest. We do utterly deny, that the axioms, which the human mind receives as self-evident truths in reference to the things of this world, are to be made the test of truth in reference to those of another. No position can be more tenable, more undeniable than this, that it is only by means of the five senses a knowledge of the external world around us can be had. But who would jeopard his reputation as a philosopher by affirming there are not inhabitants of other worlds provided with more or different means of intercourse with material things around them? The truth is, every rational man cannot but feel the force of the dramatist's assertion,

There are more things in Heaven and Earth

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. It would be absurd to reason, because we have only five senses, therefore there can be no other means of intercourse with a material world, and therefore the inhabitants of Jupiter must be human beings. We feel how utterly false it is to apply the axioms and reasonings which are true of the things of this world to those of another.

Now, the sacred seriptures are the word of God, disclosing scenes and objects, entirely different from what we meet in this world. The source of our information, is the

1 Voltaire, in one of his romances, has happily illustrated this idea, and against it assuredly the infidel will not object,

« PreviousContinue »