Page images
PDF
EPUB

and raise the superstructure.

This is the master.

work-the peculiar office of Reason: and it bears the same relation to the subordinate faculties, that the architect of a building does to the labourer and

mason.

SECT. III.

Limitation of Reason.

Now, after all the discursive range we have given to Reason, it does not seem in any way to follow from its functions or its capacity, that although it should make the circuit of natural knowledge it could ap proach a single step nearer to the knowledge of nature's God. For, natural knowledge, or philosophy so called, can amount to nothing more, after all its pretensions, than to a mere speculative knowledge of the manifest qualities of bodies and the laws of their mutual relations. It cannot reach to the hidden power which gives energy, life, and motion.

Therefore a knowledge of the Deity, or more properly of his attributes, obtained through the medium of outward things, that is, of his works, would, to man, be as obscure, distant, and imperfect, as the knowledge of the Sun ascertained in no better way than by its reflexion upon the Moon: it is only as it shines immediately upon the eye of the beholder,

that he can form the least conception of its majesty. And, in like manner, it is only as the ray of divine light is emitted from the fountain itself upon the mind, that any human being, so favoured, can form an adequate notion, however faint and imperfect, of its transcendent glory. It is in the mind of man, therefore, that the only true knowledge of the Creator can be discovered. Because, without, all is mediate, like sounds to the deaf, or colours to the blind. We cannot discover an obvious connexion between outward knowledge and inward feeling. The cold and heartless acknowledgment of a Creator, may be made perhaps by reason, when in physical inquiries, it is driven to an ultimate first cause. But the knowledge of his works does not necessarily tend to produce the warm internal evidence of his love and power. How much so ever Reason can know, it has no pretension to feeling. By reasoning, no human being can tell that a benevolent Creator regards him with the smiles of his favour; nor can outward observation ever discover that the soul of man has a near affinity with the supreme ruler of the world. The hearing of the ear cannot make the heart glow with love and gratitude. Nor can he, who sets himself inquisitively to examine the outward proofs of the existence of a Deity,-who questions them one by one, and resolves to admit no other evidence, expect to meet that approving welcome,-that love and sympathy, and sunshine of the heart, which it might be supposed an illustrious parent would give

his child anxiously seeking his acquaintance, to whom he was unknown.

It is not, surely, by standing aloof, and distrusting every outward sign, that an individual whose highest interest it is to cultivate an acquaintance with some distinguished relative, warmly disposed to do him service, can gain his favour. Yet this is the predicament in which the advocates of Reason's sufficiency, excluding a divine intelligence, would place the human mind in relation to its author. They would make a wider barrier between man and his Creator, than is known to subsist between the natural parent and his child. But is any one prepared to say that there is a closer affinity in the latter case than in the former? We all stand in the relation of children to one Almighty Parent: we all owe him love and obedience, and depend upon his care. Now in what manner does the natural parent proceed with regard to his son ?-He instils into his mind the principles of knowledge; he watches the opening of his understanding; he caresses him with fondness, cheers him with encouragement, approves with smiles of favour, and punishes with looks of disapprobation. He requires of him, in return, docility, perfect obedience, unremitting watchfulness, and humility. But, according to the doctrine in question, the benevolent Father of all, who himself formed the soul, after having endowed it with Reason, resigned the government to this faculty, making it his sole vicegerent. Consequently the natural energies of the creature are sup

posed to do all, and held to be sufficient for every moral and physical want; and the decision of Reason is paramount to that of every other intelligence! There is, therefore, upon this principle, no immediate intercourse between God and the soul of man; and smiles and frowns, irradiations, monitions, and other testimonies of divine notice are withheld. For, Reason, by its very constitution, jealously maintains its authority against every thing that has the appearance of enthusiasm against every intrusion of thought and impulse that does not come by outward observation of the senses. Reason, it must be confessed, if these are its prerogatives, and it thus stands us instead of a Divine Intelligence, is a highly invested leader; and we should expect to see adequate fruits of so distinguished a guide the fruits of order, consistency, rectitude, and harmony, in the moral relations of man!

Now, it is fair to ask, are all things under the government of Reason conducted with such a wise and consistent economy?

We see that every thing under the guidance of Instinct in the natural world, is maintained and regulated with consummate wisdom :-There is no want of harmony,-no disorder. But, in the moral world, so far as it is under the jurisdiction of reason, it is plain, that human affairs are not administered according to the rules of peace and harmony and wisdom. In the closets of the learned, we find what ought to be the state of human society in support, too, of

these wise political and moral maxims, the universal concurrence of mankind is amply afforded. But, in the practical concerns of life, it too often happens, that both he, who propounds the truth, and he who adds his assent, transgress the principles of justice. In communities, great and small, we perceive the prevalence of evil; unworthy motives; fierce antagonist passions; dishonourable conduct; mean subterfuges ; unmanly compliances; hostile contentions; and destructive wars. We perceive, that whole nations are sometimes actuated by a wild, irrational impulse ;— rulers and their people hurried away by infuriated zeal; as if reason not only suffered the most brutal passions to riot in extravagance of disorder, but with all its energies, fanned the flame, and urged the ebullition.

Men speak of the gradual amelioration of society, as if it were produced by reason; and as if the discoveries in art and science would be infinitely progressive, and so by themselves work an important change in human affairs. But it appears to me extremely doubtful, whether the general comforts of society are greater now, than they were 3000 years ago. Though we travel more expeditiously on land, or navigate the sea with more certainty, or have improved machinery, compared with past ages; there is no necessary connexion between any of these things and moral advancement, or outward happiness. And though knowledge is infinitely preferable to ignorance, and a step towards moral cultivation, yet it is

« PreviousContinue »