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find but systems of materialism and irresponsibility, a world uncaused and ungoverned ; a deity who is neither wise, nor good; conceptions that are obscure and unsatisfying; and systems of dark uncertainty and unhinging scepticism that agitate, without convincing the mind ? Deism, it is to be hoped, has seen its best days. From the early part of the seventeenth century, when a few men in France and Italy began to form themselves into a society for the purpose of propagating the doctrines of pure Theism in opposition to Christianity, down to the latter part of the eighteenth century, when so many distinguished minds both on the continent of Europe and in Great Britain, rejected the gospel under a pretence of veneration for the one true God, human reason made its best, and probably its last efforts in favour of natural religion. And yet nothing more clearly distinguishes this system than that it professes to be no system. It acknowledges the existence of God; professes to follow the light and law of nature, and rejects all divine revelation. With this standard it seemed for a while to be marching through the world, and because it quieted the minds of men in sin, multiplied its converts without inquiry and without conviction. But it was destined to overthrow itself. It was never any thing better than a refined sort of paganism. Nor had it indeed half the conscience, or half the stability of paganism itself. At first it was pure Theism, or natural religion ; then it became bold infidelity; then materialism; then scepticism; then it denied a providence, and then a God. Reason became its deity: there was no God but reason. And now, for the first time elevated to the throne of the universe, reason began to be alarmed for her own safety, and resolved that there was a God. And then she began to tread her way back to the Bible. There, and there only does she discover the God whom the understanding delights in, and at whose authority conscience bows. It is a remark worthy of being remembered, that “ however deists may deride and scoff at the Bible, it is a fact capable of the clearest proof, that had it not been for the Scriptures, there would not at this time be such a thing as pure Theism upon earth. There is not now in the world an individual who believes in one infinitely perfect God, whose knowledge of this truth may not be traced directly, or indirectly to the Bible.”*
There is another fact which is enough to wean our confidence from the more arrogant claims of human reason; I mean its utter failure in the great department of intellectual philosophy. Employing, as this department has done, some of the most erudite and powerful minds, its whole history has furnished melancholy indications of the blindness and uncertainty of that dependence which men have placed in their own intellectual powers. Though giant minds have grappled with the theme with all their freshness and vigour, what has been more fluctuating than the principles of this science from the days of the schoolmen down to the time of Reid, Stewart and Brown? Who now confides in the visionary system of Malebranche; in the notions of Locke, with respect to the origin of our ideas; or in the idealism of Berkeley and Collier ? Who believes in the annihilation both of the world of matter and of mind, as advocated by Hume; in the monads of Leibnitz; in the vibrations and associations of Hartley ; in the negations of Kant; or in the transcendentalism of Coleridge and Cousin ? And yet, which of these systems has not, in' its turn, been extolled as the sublimest effort of human genius, and sharing honour with the most important improvements in human knowledge ? Aside from the few principles of intellectual philosophy which are obviously deducible from the Scriptures, what evidence have we that a single half century will not witness an entire revolution in this important science? How little confidence then is to be placed in the vaunted powers of human reason? If she has learned so little in the science of mind, how much less will she learn in the science of religion ? If her fairest systems of mental philosophy are so undetermined and changing, what can she accomplish in framing and building up a fair and stable system of moral and religious truth !
* Evidences of Christianity by A. Alexander D. D.
It is no difficult matter, therefore, to discover the appropriate influence of the Bible upon the researches and certainty of moral science. It is just the influence that is needed. It is paramount to every other ; is extensive as the wants of the soul, and the sphere of religious truth; is perfect and can receive no accessions. It illumines where men are ignorant, and decides and establishes where reason hesitates, and our minds are in doubt and uncertainty. Let us contemplate it a single moment in these two aspects.
In the first place, it extends the sphere of moral science. It reveals all truth. It keeps back nothing that is best for a fallen creature to know. · An intelligent child of six years of age, educated in the bosom of a Christian family, knows more on moral and religious subjects than Socrates or Plato. We are scarcely aware of the vast extent and compass of religious truth with which the Scriptures are so perfectly familiar. We listen to their instructions so frequently, that the thought is not always present to our minds, that they are inculcating truths which none but God knows. They point us back to the eternity which the Creator inhabited before the foundation of the world, and forward to the eternity we shall inhabit after this world shall have passed away. They lead our minds up to Him, who, though he dwells in light unapproachable and fills the universe is about our path and about our bed; on whom all beings depend, from the archangel to the worm; and who, while he is slow to anger and of great kindness, is terrible in majesty. They make us acquainted with his vast and perfect purposes, comprehending all his works and all the events of his providence in this world and other worlds, in time and through interminable ages. They direct our thoughts to the great law which he has published, and by which he establishes the moral order and harmony of the universe. They lead us to take a view of that world of wonders—man-a mystery to himself and yet more than all the works of God, the means of eliciting the manifold glory of his Maker. They proclaim to us the glad tidings of great joy through the incarnation and death, resurrection, intercession, and mediatorial reign and triumph of the Son of God. They make us acquainted with the character and offices of the Divine Spirit, under whose transforming influence the soul is brought out of darkness into marvellous light, and though by nature guilty and impoverished, is enriched and adorned, and made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance with the saints in light. They make us familiar with the import of momentous and melan choly themes--death and the grave; with the resurrection both of the just and the unjust. They pour a light upon our path by which we descry the vast continent, the boundless immortality that stretches itself away immeasurably beyond our thoughts, and then lift the curtain where scenes and prospects rise that alternately appal and enchant us-the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven; the throne of judgment; the final sentence; the everlasting retribution. How long would human reason have been clouded in mist, how long have groped in darkness, had not the light dawned that has made such disclosures ? He who knows all things, and sees as clearly at midnight as at noon day, not only becomes the light of reason, but even condescends to reveal to faith what
our limited and imperfect reason may not in many · instances comprehend. His intelligence is everlasting;
he is the centre of thought, the law of all laws, and the last and supreme reason of all things. It belongs to him to originate and reveal the truths we are to receive; and even though they may not be comprehended by us, yet are they all clear and plain to him. Let the man who thirsts for knowledge, who is wearied in his pursuit of truth, and who feels dissatisfied with all that reason has ever taught him, repair to the Scriptures and see how fast he will learn under such a teacher. What amazing resources does he possess, when he becomes the possessor of the Bible! What an ocean of knowledge does he carry in the hollow of his hand when he grasps that sacred book! What uncreated wisdom seems then to be contained within the limits of his finite intelligence ! When once a mind eager in the pursuit of knowledge begins in earnest to learn from this book of God, it continually advances. There are no limits to these exhaustless instructions. As the intellectual powers and faculties expand and brighten by thought and prayer, as sinister and unworthy ends are lost sight of and superseded by the more steady and unalloyed love of the truth, the sphere of vision is enlarged; one degree of attainment facilitates the acquisition of another; the more is known, the greater will be the capacity of knowing, till light is poured upon the hitherto benighted mind from every opened page, and it increases in the knowledge of God till it beholds him as he is,