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cles, all his commands become principles, there needs no more influence in effectuating, or making certain no other proof of what He says, but that He said it; and any event, than human foreknowledge in the degree in there needs no more than to read the inspired books which it may exist; there being no moral causality at to be instructed."
all in knowledge. This lies in the will, which is the Having thus shown that miracles are possible; that determining acting principle in every agent; or, as Dr. under certain circumstances their reality may be as- Samuel Clarke has expressed it in answer to another certained ; that when accompanied by other circum- kind of objector, “God's infallible judgment concerning stances, which we have also mentioned, they are con- contingent truths does no more alter the nature of nected with a definite end, and connect themselves things and cause them to be necessary, than our judg with the Divine mission of those who perform them, ing right at any time concerning a contingent truth and with the truth of their doctrine; that as facts they makes it cease to be contingent, or than our science of are the subjects of human testimony, and that credible a present truth is any cause of its being either true or testimony respecting them lays a competent foundation present. Here, therefore, lies the fallacy of our aufor our belief in them, and in those revelations which thor's argument. Because from God's foreknowing the they are clearly designed to attest,-the way is pre-existence of things depending upon a chain of necessary pared for the consideration of the miracles recorded in causes, it follows that the existence of the things must Scripture.
needs be necessary; therefore from God's judging PROPHECY is the other great branch of the external infallibly concerning things which depend not on evidence of a revelation; and the nature and force of necessary but free causes, he concludes that these that kind of evidence may fitly be pointed out, before things also depend not upon free but necessary causes. either the miracles or prophecies of the Bible are exa- Contrary, I say, to the supposition in the argument; mined; for by ascertaining the general principles on for it must not be first supposed that things are in their which this kind of evidence rests, the consideration of own nature necessary; but from the power of judging particular cases will be rendered more easy and satis- infallibly concerning free events, it must be proved that factory.
things, otherwise supposed free, will thereby unavoidNo argument a priori against the possibility of pro-ably become necessary.” The whole question lies in phecy can be attempted by any one who believes in the this : Is the simple knowledge of an action a necessiexistence and infinitely perfect nature of God.
tating cause of the action? And the answer must be The infidel author of " The Moral Philosopher," in- in the negative, as every man's consciousness will deed, rather insinuates than attempts fully to esta- assure him. If the causality of influence, either imme blish a dilemma with which to perplex those who re- diate or by the arrangement of compelling events, be gard prophecy as one of the proofs of a Divine Reve- mixed up with this, the ground is shifted ; and it is no lation. He thinks, that either prophecy must respect longer a question which respects simple prescience. "events necessary, as depending upon necessary This metaphysical objection having no foundation in causes, which might be certainly foreknown and pre- truth, the force of the evidence, arising from predictions dicted ;" or that, if human actions are free, and effects of events, distant, and out of the power of human sacontingent, the possibility of prophecy must be given gacity to anticipate, and uttered as authentications of a up, as it implies foreknowledge, which, if granted, Divine commission, is apparent. “Such predictions, would render them necessary.
whether in the form of a declaration, description, or The first part of this objection would be allowed, representation of things future," as Mr. Boyle justly were there no predictions to be adduced in favour of a observes, "are supernatural things, and may properly professed revelation, except such as related to events be ranked among miracles.”(1) For when, for instance, which human experience has taught to be dependent the events are distant many years or ages from the upon some cause, the existence and necessary opera- uttering of the prediction itself, depending on causes tion of which are within the compass of human know not so much as existing when the prophecy was spoken ledge. But to foretel such events would not be to pro- and recorded, and likewise upon various circumstances phesy, any more than to say that it will be light and a long arbitrary series of things, and the fluctuatto-morrow at noon, or that on a certain day and hour ing uncertainties of human volitions, and especially next year there will occur an eclipse of the sun or moon, when they depend not at all upon any external circumwhen that event has been previously ascertained by stances, nor upon any created being, but arise merely astronomical calculation.
from the counsels and appointment of God himself, If, however, it were allowed, that all events depended such events can be foreknown only by that Being, one upon a chain of necessary causes, yet, in a variety of of whose attributes is omniscience, and can be foretold instances, the argument from prophecy would not be by him only to whom the “Father of Lights” shall at all effected; for the foretelling of necessary results reveal them. So that whoever is manifestly endued in certain circumstances is beyond human intelligence, with that predictive power must, in that instance, because they can only be known to him hy whose speak and act by Divine inspiration, and what he pro power those necessary causes on which they depend nounces of that kind must be received as the word of have been arranged, and who has prescribed the times God; nothing more being necessary to assure us of of their operation. To borrow a case, for the sake of this, than credible testimony that such predictions illustration, from the Scriptures, though the claims of were uttered before the event, or conclusive evidence their predictions are not now in question ; let us allow that the records which contain them are of the antithat such a prophecy as that of Isaiah respecting the quity to which they pretend.(2) taking of Babylon by Cyrus was uttered, as it purports to be, more than a century before Cyrus was born, and that all the actions of Cyrus and his army, and those of the Babylonian monarch and his people were neces
CHAPTER X. sitated; is it to be maintained, that the chain of necessitating causes, running through more than a century, The EVIDENCES NECESSARY TO AUTHENTICATE A Re. could be traced by a human mind, so as to describe the
VELATION.--Internal Evidence. Collateral Eviprecise manner in which that fatality would unfold dence itself, even to the turning of the river, the drunken The second kind of evidence, usually considered as carousal of the inhabitants, and the neglect of shutting necessary for the attestation of a Divine revelation, is the gates of the city? This, being by uniform and uni- called Internal Evidence. versal experience known to be above all human appre- This kind of evidence has been already described to hension, would therefore prove that the prediction was he that which arises from the consideration of the docmade in consequence of a communication from a supe-| trines taught, as being consistent with the character of rior and Divine Intelligence. Were events, therefore, God, and tending to promote the virtue and happiness subjected to invincible fate and necessity, there might of man, the ends for which a revelation of the will of nevertheless be prophecy.
God was needed, and for which it must have been The other branch of the dilemma is founded on the given, if it be considered as an act of grace and mercy, notion, that if we allow the moral freedom of human This subject, like the two branches of the External actions, prophecy is impossible; because certain fore- Evidence, miracles and prophecy, involves important knowledge is contrary to that freedom, and fixes and renders the event necessary.
(1) Boyle's Christian Virtuoso. To this the reply is, that the objection is founded on (2) Vide CHAPMAN's Eusebius, p. 158; CUDWORTH'S a false assumption, the Divine foreknowledge having | Intellect. Syst. p. 866 ; VITRINGA in Isa. cap. 41.
general principles, and it may require to be the more serves a late ingenious writer, “ in a system which carefully considered, as opinions have run into extremes. purports to be a revelation from heaven, and to conBy some it has been doubted, whether what is called iain a history of God's dealings with men, and to de" the Internal Evidence,” that is, the excellence of the velope truths with regard to the moral government of doctrines and tendency of a revelation, ought to be the universe, the knowledge and belief of which will ranked with the leading evidence of iniracles and pro- lead to happiness here and hereafter, we may expect to phecy, seeing that the proof from miracles and from find (if its pretensions are well founded) an evidence prophecy is decisive and absolute. For the same rea- for its truth, which shall be independent of all exterson, however, prophecy might be excluded from the nal testimony.”(4) If this be true, the utility of the rank of leading evidence, inasmuch as miracles of evidence of miracles is rendered very questionable. It themselves are, in their evidence, decisive and abso- is either unnecessary, or it is subordinate and dependlute. If, however, it were contended, that proofs from ent; neither of which, by Christian divines at least, miracles, prophecy, and internal evidence are jointly can be consistently maintained. The non-necessity of necessary to constitute suficient proof of the truth of miracles cannot be asserted by them, because they bea revelation, there would be reason to dispute the posi• lieve them to have been actually performed; and that tion, understanding by “ sufficient evidence” that de- they are subordinate proofs, and dependent upon the gree of proof which would render it highly unreason- sufficiency of the Internal Evidence, is contradicted by able, perverse, and culpable in any one to reject the the whole tenor of the Seriptures, which represent authority of the revelation. This evidence is attorded them as being in themselves an absolute demonstration by miracles alone; for if there be any force at all in of the mission and doctrine of the prophets, at whose the argument from miracles, it goes to the full length instance they were performed, and never direct us to of rational proof of a divine attestation, and that both to regard their doctrines as a test of the miracles. The him who personally witnesses the performance of a miracles of Christ, in particular, were a demonstration, real miracle, and to him to whom it is credibly testified; not a partial and conditional, but a complete and absoand nothing more is absolutely necessary to enforce á lute demonstration of his mission from God; and " it rational conviction. But if it should please the Divine may be observed, with respect to all the miracles of Author of a revelation to superadd the farther evidence the New Testament, that their divinity, considered in of prophecy, and also that of the obvious truth, and be- themselves, is always either expressly asserted or neficial tendency of many parts of this revelation, cir- manifestly implied, and they are accordingly urged as cumstances which must necessarily be often apparent, a decisive and absolute proof of the divinity of the docit ought not to be disregarded in the argument in its trine and testimony of those who perform them, withfavour, nor thought of trifling import; since, though it out ever taking into consideration the nature of the may not be necessary to establish a rational and suffi- doctrine or of the testimony to be confirmed." cient proof, it may have a secondary necessity, to Against this mode of stating the Internal Evidence, arouse attention, to leave objectors more obviously there lies also this logical objection, that it is arguing without excuse, and also to accommodate the revela- in a circle ;-the miracles are proved by the doctrine, tion to that variety which exists in the mental constitu- and then the doctrine by the miracles; an objection, tions of men, one mind being excited to attention, and from which those wlio have adopted the notion either disposed to conviction, more forcibly by one species of of the superior or the co-ordinate rank of the internal proof than by another.
evidence have not, with all their ingenuity and effort, In strict propriety, therefore, miracles may be con- fairly escaped. sidered as the primary evidence of the truth of a reve- Miracles must, therefore, be considered as the lead. lation, and every other species of proof as confirmatory. ing and absolute evidence of a revelation from God; and Prophecy and the Internal Evidence are leading evi- “ what to me,” says a sensible writer, “ is, à priori, a dences, but neither of them stand in the foremost place. strong argument of their being so, is the manifest in
The same abundance of proof we perceive in nature, consistency of the other hypothesis with the very confür the demonstration of the being and attributes of God. dition of that people for whose sake God should raise Proofs of the existence of a First Cause, almighty and up at any time his extraordinary messengers, enduod infinitely wise, more than what is logically sufficient, with such miraculous powers. For if God ever favours surround us every where; but who can doubt, that if mankind with such a special revelation of his will, and
half the instances of infinite power and wisdom which instructions from heaven, in a way supernatural, it is . are seen in the material universe were annihilated, certainly in that unhappy juncture when the prin
there would not be sufficient evidence to demonstrate ciples and practices of mankind are so miserably deboth these, as perfections of the Maker of the universe? praved and corrupted, as to want the light and assist
On the other hand, the proof drawu from the Inter- ance of revelation extremely, and are (lumanly speaknal Evidence by others has been placed first in order, ing) utterly incorrigible without it. Now, to say that, and the force of the evidence from miracles and pro- in these particular circumstances, men are not to dephecy is by them made to depend upon the excellence pend on any real miracles, but, before they admit them of the doctrine which they are brought forward to con- as evidence of the prophet's divine mission, they must firm, and which ought first to be ascertainel. Nothing, carefull examine his doctrine, to see if it be perfectly say they, is to be received as a revelation from God good and true, is either to suppose these people furwhich does not contain doctrines worthy of the divine nished with principles and knowledge requisite for that character, and tending to proinote the good of mankind. purpose, contrary, point blank, to the real truth of their -"A necessary mark of a religion coming from God case; or else it is to assert, that they who are utterly is, that the duties it enjoins are all such as are agree- destitute of principles and knowledge requisite for that able to our natural notions of God, and perfective of the work must, nevertheless, undertake it without them, nature and conducive to the happiness of man.”(3) and judge of the truth of the prophet's doctrine and au
Now, though it must be instantly granted, that in a thority by their false principles of religion and morevelation froin God, there will be nothing contrary to rality; which, in short, is to fix them immoveably his own character; and that, when it is made in the where they are already, in old erroneous principles, way of a merciful dispensation, it will contain nothing against uny new and true ones that should be offered. but what tends to perfect the nature and promote the Especially with the bulk of mankind, full of darkness happiness of his creatures; it is clear, that to try a and prejudice, this must unavoidably be the conseprofessed revelation by our own notions, as to what is quence; and the more they wanted a reformation in worthy of God and beneficial to mankind, is to assume, principle, the less capable would they be of receiving that, independent of a revelation, we know what God it in this method. Thus, for instance: were a teacher is, or we cannot say what is worthy or unworthy of sent from heaven, with signs and wonders, to a nation him; and that we know, too, the character and rela- of idolaters, and they previously instructed to regard tions and wants of man so perfectly as to determine no miracles of his whatsoever, till they were fully sawhat is beneficial to him; in other words this sup- tisfied of the goodness of his doctrine, it is casy to poses that we are in circumstances not greatly to need foresee by whal rule they would prove his doctrine, supernatural instruction. Another objection to the In- and what success he would meet with among them ternal Evidence being made the primary test of a reve. Add to this, what is likewise exceedingly material, the lation is, that it renders the external iestimony nuga- great delays and perplexities attending this way of protory, or comparatively unimportant. “ Surely," ob- ceeding. For if every article of doctrine must be dis. (3) Dr. S. CLARKE,
(4) ERSKINE on the Internal Evidence, &c.
cussed and scanned by every person to whom it is of- ation, renders our instruction in many doctrines and fered, what slow advances would be made by a divine duties possible, the rational evidence of whose truth is revelation among such a people! Hundreds would pro- wanting; and as some doctrines may be true, and bably be cut off before they came to the end of their highly important to us, which are not capable of this queries, and the prophet might grow decrepid with kind of proof, that is, which are not so fully known as age before he gained twenty proselytes in a nation.”(5) to be compared with any received propositions, and de
It is easy to discover the causes which have led to termined by them, our knowledge is, in this way, these mistakes, as to the true office of the Internal Evi- greatly enlarged: the benefits of revelation are exdence of a divine revelation.
tended ; and the whole becomes obligatory, and thereIn the first place, a hypothetic case has been assumed, fore efficient to moral purposes, because it bears upon and it has been asked, “If a doctrine, absurd and it the seal of an infallible authority. wicked, should be attested by miracles, is it to be ad- The firmer ground on which a revelation, founded mitted as divine, upon their authority ?" The answer upon reasonable external proof of authority, rests, is is, that this is a case which cannot in the nature of also obvious. The doctrines in which we need to be things occur, and cannot, therefore, be made the basis instructed are, the nature of God; our own relations of an argument. We have seen already, that a real to that invisible Being; his will concerning us; the miracle can be wrought by none but God, or by his means of obtaining or securing his favour; the princommission, because the contrary supposition would ciples of his government, and a future life. These and exclude him from the government of the world which others of a similar kind involve great difficulties, as he has made and preserves. Whenever a real mi- the history of moral knowledge among inankind suffiracle takes place, therefore, in attestation of any doc- ciently proves; and that not only among those who trine, that doctrine cannot be either unreasonable or never had the benefits of the Biblical revelation on impious; and if it should appear so to us, after the these subjects, but among those who, not considering reality of the miracle is ascertained, which is not pro- it as an authority, have indulged the philosophizing bable ordinarily, our judgment must be erroneous. spirit, and judged of these doctrines merely by their The miracle proves the doctrine, or the ground on rational evidence. This, from the nature of things, which miracles are allowed to have any force of evi- appearing under different views to different minds, has dence at all, either supreme or subordinate, absolute or produced almost as much contrariety of opinion among dependent, must be given up;r their evidence con- them, as we find among the sages of pagan antiquity. sists in this-that they are the works of God.
The mere rational proof of the truth of such doctrines The second cause of the error has been, that the ra- being, therefore, from its nature, in many important tional evidence of the truths contained in a revelation respects, obscure, and liable to diversity of opinion, has been confounded with the authenticating evidence. would lay but a very precarious and shifting foundation When once an exhibition of the character, plans, and for faith in any revelation from God suited to remove the laws of God is made, though in their nature totally ignorance of man on points so important in doctrine, undiscoverable by human faculties, they carry to the and so essential to an efficient religion and morality. reason of man, so far as they are of a nature to be On the other hand, the process of obtaining a rational comprehended by it, the demonstration which accom- proof of the Divine attestation of a doctrine, by mirapanies truth of any other kind. For, as the eye is cles for instance, is of the most simple and decisive kind, formed to receive light, the rational powers of man are and gives to unbelief the character of obvious performed to receive conviction when the cougruity of pro- verseness and inconsistency. Perverseness, because positions is made evident. This is rational, but it is not there is a clear opposition of the will rather than of authenticating evidence. Let us suppose that there is the judgment in the case; inconsistency because a no external testimony of miracles or prophecy vouch- much lower degree of evidence is, by the very objectsafed to attest that the teacher through whom we re- ors, acted upon in their most important concerns in ceive those doctrines which appear to us so sublime, life. For who that saw the dead raised to life, in an so important, so true, received them from God, with a appeal to the Lord of life, in confirmation of a docmission to impart them to us. He himself has no trine professing to be taught by his authority, but means of knowing them to be from God, or of distin- must, unless wilful perverseness interposed, acknowguishing them from some happy train of thought into ledge a Divine testimony; and who that heard the which his mind has been carried by its own force; nor fact reported on the testimony of honest men and comif he had, have we any means of concluding that they petent observers, under circumstances in which no. are more than the opinions of a mind superior in vigour illusion can take place, but must be charged with inand grasp to our own. They may be true, but they consistency, should he treat the report with skepticism, are not attested to be Divine. We have no guarantee when upon the same kind and quantum of evidence of their infallible truth, because our own rational pow. he would so credit any report as to his own affairs, as ers are not infallible, nor those of the most gifted hu- to risk the greatest interests upon it? In difficult docman mind. Add then the external testimony, and we trines, of a kind to give rise to a variety of opinions, have the attestation required. The rational evidence the rational evidence is accompanied with doubt ; in of the doctrine is the same in both cases; but the ra- such a case as that of the miracle we have supposed, tional evidence, though to us it is as far, and only as it rests on principles supported by the universal and far, as we can claim infallibility for our judgment, the constant experience of mankind :-1. That the raising proof of the truth of the doctrine, is no proof at all of the dead is above human power: 2. That men, unthat God has revealed it. In the external testimony questionably virtuous in every other respect, are not alone that proof is found: the degree of rational evi- likely to propagate a deliberate falsehood: and, 3. That dence we have of the truth and excellency of the doc- it contradicts all the known motives to action in human trine may be a farther commendation of it to us, but it nature that they should do so, not only without advanis no part of its authority.
tage, but at the hazard of reproach, persecution, and From this distinction, the relative importance of the death. The evidence of such an attestation is thereexternal and the internal evidence of a revelation may fore as indubitable as these principles themselves. be farther illustrated. Rational evidence of the doc. The fourth kind of evidence by which a revelation trines proposed to us, when it can be had, goes to from God may be confirmed, is the collateral ; on which establish their truth, so far as we can depend upon our at present we need not say more than adduce some injudgment; but the external testimony, if satisfactory, stances, merely to illustrate this kind of testimony. establishes their Divine authority, and therefore their The collateral evidence of a revelation from God may absolute truth, and leaves us no appeal. Still farther, be its agreement in principle with every former revea revelation, dependent upon internal evidence only, lation, should previous revelations have been vouchcould contain no doctrines, and enjoin no duties, but of safed--that it was obviously suited to the circumstances which the evidence to our reason should be complete. of the world at the time of its communication—that it The least objection grounded on a plausible contrary is adapted to effect the great moral ends which it purreason, would weaken their force, and the absence of poses, and has actually effected them that if it co!la clear perception of their congruity with some pre- tain a record of facts as well as of doctrines, those hisvious principles admitted as true, would be the absence torical facts agree with the credible traditions and hisof all evidence of their truth whatever. On the other tories of the same times--that monuments, either nahand, a revelation, with a rational proof of Divine attest- tural or instituted, remain to attest the truth of its his
tory-that adversaries have made concessions in its (5) CHAPMAN'S Eusebius.
favour--and that, should it protess to be a universal and
ultimate revelation of the will and mercy of God to it was uttered so long before the events predicted, that man, it maintains its adaptation to the case of the they could not be anticipated in the usual order of human race, and its efficiency, to the present day. things; whether it was publicly or privately uttered ; These and many other circumstances may be ranked and whether, if put on record, that record has been under the head of collateral evidence, and some of them faithfully kept. To these points must our considerawill in their proper place be applied to the Holy Scription be directed, and to ascertain the strength of the tures.
proof is the important province of our reason or judg
The second use of reason respects the interpretation CHAPTER XI.
of the revelation thus authenticated; and here the same
rules are to be applied, as in the interpretation of any THE USE AND LIMITATION OF REASON IN RELIGION. other statement on record; for as our only object, after
Having pointed out the kind of evidence by which the authenticity of the revelation is established, is to a revelation from God may be authenticated, and the discover its sense, or, in other words, to ascertain what cireumstances under which it ought to produce convic- is declared unto us therein by God, our reason or judgtion and enforce obedience, it appears to be a natural ment is called to precisely the same office as when the order of proceeding to consider the subject of the title meaning of any other document is in question. The of this chapter, inasmuch as evidence of this kind, and terms of the record are to be taken in their plain and for this end, must be addressed to our reason, the only commonly received sense ; figures of speech are to be faculty which is capable of receiving it. But as to this interpreted with reference to the local peculiarities of office of our reason important limitations and rules | the country, in which the agents who wrote the record must be assigned, it will be requisite to adduce and resided; idioms are to be understood according to the explain them.
genius of the language employed; if any allegorical The present argument being supposed to be with one or mystical discourses occur, the key to them must be who believes in a God, the Lord and Governor of man, sought in the book itself, and not in our own fancies ; and that He is a Being of infinite perfections, our ob- what is obscure must be interpreted by that which is servations will have the advantage of certain first prin- plain; the scope and tenor of a discourse must be reciples which that belief concedes.
garded, and no conclusion formed on passages detached We have already adduced much presumptive evi- from their context, except they are complete in their dence, that a revelation of the will of God is essential sense, or evidently intended as axioms and apophto his moral government, and that such a revelation has thegms. These and other rules, which respect the actually been made. We have also farther considered time and place when the record was written; the cirthe kind and degree of evidence which is necessary to cumstances of the writer, and of those to whom he ratify it. The means by which a conviction of its immediately addressed himself; local customs, &c., truth is produced, is the point before us.
appear in this and all other cases so just and reasonThe subject to be examined is the truth of a religious able, as to commend themselves to every sober man; and moral system professing to be from God, though and we rightly use our reason in the interpretation of communicated by men, who plead his authority for its a received revelation, when we conduct our inquiries promulgation. If there be any force in the preceding into its meaning, by those plain, common-sense rules, observations, we are not, in the first instance, to exa- which are adopted by all mankind when the meaning mine the doctrine in order to determine from our own of other writings is to be ascertained. opinion of its excellence whether it be from God (for It has been added as a rule of interpretation, that to this, if we need a revelation, we are incompetent), when a revelation is sufficiently attested, and in consebut we are to inquire into the credentials of the mes- quence of that admitted, nothing is to be deduced from sengers, in quest of sufficient proof that God hath it which is contrary to reason. As this rule is liable spoken to mankind by them. Should a slight consi- to be greatly misunderstood, and has sometimes been deration of the doctrine, either by its apparent excel pushed to injuricus consequences, we shall consider it lence or the contrary, attract us strongly to this exami- at some length, and point out the sense in which it nation, it is well: but whatever prejudices for or against may be safely admitted. the doctrine a report or hasty opinion of its nature Some persons who advocate this principle of interand tendency may inspire, our final judgment can only pretation appear to confound the reason of man with safely rest upon the proof which may be afforded of its the reason or nature of things, and the relations which divine authority. If that be satisfactory, the case is subsist among them. These, however, can be known determined, whether the doctrine be pleasing or dis- fully to God alone; and to use the term reason in this pleasing to us. If sufficient evidence be not afforded, sense is the same as to use it in the sense of the reason we are at liberty to receive or reject the whole or any of God-to an equality with which human reason canpart of it, as it may appear to us to be worthy of our not aspire. It may be the reverse of Divine reason, or regard; for it then stands on the same ground as any a faint radiation from it, but never can it be full and perother merely human opinion. We are, however, to fect as the reason of a mind of perfect knowledge. It beware that this is done upon a very solemn responsi- is admitted, that nothing can be revealed by God as bility.
truth contradictory of his knowledge, and of the nature The proof of the Divine authority of a system of doc of things themselves; but it follows not from this, that trine communicated under such circumstances, is ad- nothing should be contained in that revelation contradressed to our reason, or, in other words, it must be dictory of the limited and often erring reason of reasonable proof that in this revelation there has been man.(6) a direct and special interposition of God.
Another distinction necessary to be made in order to On the principles, therefore, already laid down, that, the right application of this rule is, that a doctrine though the rational evidence of a doctrine lies in the doctrine itself, the rational proof of the Divine author- (6) “ It is the error of those who contend that all neity of a doctrine must be external to that doctrine; cessary truth is discoverable or demonstrable by reason, and that miracles and prophecy are appropriate and that they affirm of human reason in purticular, what satisfactory attestations of such an authority whenever is only true of reason in general, or of reason in the abthey occur, the use of human reason in this inquiry is stract. To say that whatever is true must be either apparent. The alleged miracles themselves are to be discoverable or demonstrable by reason, can only be examined, to determine whether they are real or pre- affirmed of an all-perfect reason, and is therefore preditended, allowing them to have been performed; the cated of none but the Divine Intellect. So that unless testimony of witnesses is to be investigated, to deter- it can be shown that human reason is the same, in mine whether they actually occurred; and if this tes- degree, as well as in kind, with Divine reason ; i.e. timony has been put on record, we have also to deter- commensurate with it as to its powers, and equally inmine whether the record was at first faithfully made, capable of error; the inference from reason in the aband whether it has been carefully and uncorruptedly stract to human reason is manifestly inconclusive. preserved. With respect to prophecy, we are also to Nothing more is necessary to show the fallacy of this exarnine whether the professed prophecy be a real pre mode of arguing, than to urge the indisputable truth, diction of future events, or only an ambiguous and that God is wiser than man, and has endued man with equivocal saying, capable of being understood in vari-only a portion of that faculty, which He himself and ous ways; whether it relates to events which lie be- none other besides him possesses in absolute perfection." yond the guess of wise and observing men ; whether |--VAN MILDERT'S Sermons at Boyle's Lecture.
which cannot be proved by our reason is not, on that, is opened, which may be pursued to the enlargement of
that is, not to mere opinion, but to the nature of someIt has indeed been maintained, that, though our rea- thing which we know so well, that we are bound to son may be inadequate to the discovery of such truths reject the interpretation as an absurdity. If, again, any as the kind of revelation we have supposed to be neces- were to interpret passages which speak of God as having sary must contain, yet, when aided by this revelation, the form of man to mean, that he has merely a local it is raised into so perfect a condition, that what appears presence, our reason has been taught by revelation, that incongruous to it ought to be concluded contrary to the God is a spirit
, and exists every where, that is, so far revelation itself. This, to a certain extent, is true. we have been taught the nature of things as to God, When a doctrine is clearly revealed to us, standing as that we reject the interpretation, as contrary to what it does upon an infallible authority, no contrary doc. has been so clearly revealed, and resolve every anthrotrine can be true, whether found without the record of pomorphite expression we inay find in the revelation the revelation, or deduced from it; for this is, in fact, into figurative and accommodated language. In theapno more than saying that human opinions must be tried plication of this rule, when even thus limited, care is, by Divine authority, and that revelation must be con- however, to be taken, that we distinguish what is casistent with itself. The test to which in this case, pable of being tried by it. If we compare one thing however, we subject a contradictory doctrine, so long with another, in order to determine whether it agrees as we adhere to the revelation, is formed of principles with, or differs from it, it is not enough that we have which our reason did not furnish, but such as were sufficient knowledge of that with which we compare it, communicated to us by supernatural interposition; and and which we have made the standard of judgment. It the judge to which we refer is not, properly speaking, is also necessary, that the things compared should be reason, but revelation.
of the same nature, and that the con
should But if by this is meant, that our reason, once enlight- be made in the same respects. We take for illustration ened by the annunciation of the great truths of revela- the case just given. Of two bodies we can affirm, that tion, can discover or complete, in all cases, the process they cannot be in the same place at the same time; but of their rational proof, that is, their conformity to the we cannot affirm that of a body and a spirit for we nature and truth of things, and is thus authorized to know what relation bodies have to place and to each reject whatever cannot be thus harmonized with our other, but we do not know what relation spirits have own deductions from the leading truths thus revealed, to each other, or to space. This may illustrate the first so great a concession cannot be made to human ability rule. The second demands, that the comparison be In many of the rules of morals, and the doctrincs of re- made in the same respect. If we afiirm of two bodies, ligion too, it inay be allowed, that a course of thought one of a round, and the other of a square figure, ilas