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Gregory of Nazianzum the study of the Grecian philosophy as a means of preparing him for the study of the Christian religion, adds, that as the İsraelites employed the spoils of Egypt in the construction of the tabernacle and its furniture, so we should consecrate our learning to the service of God.

I shall take notice only of another qualification, the love of truth, which is to be found in every mind imbued with piety. Whatever is the subject of inquiry, men are always desirous to discover the truth, unless it happen that error will be more soothing, or more conducive to their immediate interests; but here, it should be sought with greater diligence and care than in any of the sciences, on account of its superior value. The constant aim of a student of theology, must be to ascertain the mind of God in the Scriptures, by reading and reflecting upon them. He should come to the study, not with a view to find out arguments in favour of the system which he may have been previously led to adopt, but to learn what is the system which has proceeded from the Father of lights by the ministry of his inspired messengers. I do not mean to concur with some (declaimers,) who would dissuade the student from having any recourse to human aid, and call upon him to make his own understanding his only resource, and to commence his inquiries as unprovided and as helpless as if not an individual had gone before him to point out the way. I do not so undervalue the labours of pious and learned men, who shine as lights in the firmament of the church ; and I have little doubt, that nothing would be more mortifying to those declaimers, than our adopting their advice in its full extent, and treating their own writings with as little regard as they wish us to express for the writings of others. But I mean, that while we consult the opinions of others, we should remember that they are fallible, and in themselves of no authority; and that our ultimate appeal should be to the Scriptures, by which alone the question of truth and error can be decided in religion. Follow them whithersoever they shall lead you. Refuse not to fol. low them, although it should be necessary to part from those, whose dictates you have been hitherto accustomed to reverence as oracles. He who holds the office which I have undertaken must deliver a particular system, because it is the system of the church which has appointed him, and because he believes it to be true. He must say also, that if you will be ministers of that church, you must adopt her creed, because she allows no other to be taught to the people. But farther he has no right to proceed. He is not the lord of your faith. He does not claim to teach authoritatively, and, like Pythagoras, to substitute his own affirmations for wisdom. He calls upon you to inquire for yourselves, with earnest prayer for divine illumination, and to embrace the truth wherever you may find it. - “ Prove all things ; hold fast that which is good."

LECTURE II.

SOURCES OF THEOLOGY : REASON.

Sources of Theology, Reason and Revelation-Reason defined : Extent of its Discoveries re

specting the Being and Attributes of God; Man's Relation to God; Creation; Providence ; Morality; and the Immortality of the Soul-Reason insufficient to establish the Doctrines of natural Religion : totally silent respecting those of supernatural Religion--The just Office of Reason in Theology.

In the preceding lecture, I endeavoured to give you a general view of the nature of theology, and pointed out its superiority to every other subject of study. As it treats of God and divine things, of our duty and our hopes, it is equally interesting to the learned and the unlearned. I showed you that it is distinguished into natural, and supernatural or revealed theology; and that of the latter there are three divisions,—didactic, polemic, and practical theology. Didactic theology explains the doctrines of religion, and states the proofs, or the arguments by which their truth is evinced. Polemic theology considers the controversies respecting those doctrines, and replies to the objections of adversaries. It is the business of practical theology to point out the improvement which should be made of the doctrines, by detailing the duties incumbent upon those who profess to receive them as true, and the motives which they supply to the faithful performance of these duties. I concluded by laying before you some of the qualifications for the study of theology; and I mentioned piety, without which the study, if not unsuccessful, will certainly be unprofitable ; a competent share of human learning, which is indispensably necessary to eminence in your profession; and the love of truth, or a sincere desire to know the will of God, leading to candour and diligence in your inquiries.

Let us now proceed to inquire what are the sources of theology; or, in other words, what are the sources from which our knowledge of it is derived. These are reason and revelation. Here our attention is demanded to such questions as these-Whether reason and revelation are both necessary? If only one, whether is it reason or revelation ? and, lastly, if reason alone is insufficient, how far its discoveries extend, and what are its defects, which are supplied by revelation ?

Reason signifies, in his place, the intellectual and moral faculties of man, exercised without any supernatural assistance in the investigation of religion. Whether under its guidance he can attain all the knowledge which is necessary to conduct him to virtue and happiness, is the great subject of controversy between infidels and Christians. There is another dispute, among Christians themselves, with respect to the degree of its ability ; while some maintain that it can discover the doctrines of what is called natural religion, others affirm that these could not be known without the aid of revelation.

Nothing is more unphilosophical, and a more certain source of error, than to indulge in vague speculations and barren generalities upon any subject, when it is in our power to enter into a close investigation of it, and to bring it to the test of experience. It is easy to present to us a system of religion, containing a variety of articles supported by a train of arguments, which seem to amount to demonstration; and to tell us, that reason, being the gift of God, must be perfectly sufficient to direct men in all the parts of their duty ; that religion being a general concern, they would not be responsible, unless they were all furnished with the means of acquiring the knowledge of it, that the supposition of supplementary means is a reflection upon the wisdom of God,

as if he had nüt originally adapted man to his situation, and was hence com pelled to devise a new expedient for correcting the error. Without examining these assertions one by one, and showing, which we might do, that they are mere gratuitous assumptions, it may suffice to observe, that not a single fact in the history of mankind can be adduced in confirmation of them. They are an Utopian description of an imaginary state, not a sober relation of things which really exist. They are a priori arguments, or arguments deduced from our own previous conceptions, not arguments, a posteriori, or founded on observation and experience. The question is not, what should be, according to our ideas of justice and fitness, but what actually is; not what purposes reason, abstractly considered, may be presumed to accomplish, but what purposes reason, as existing in men, is found to have actually accomplished. It is preposterous, first to give an arbitrary definition of reason, and then to conclude that it is capable of exerting all the power which we have been pleased to ascribe to it; it is more consonant to sound philosophy, to judge of the power of reason by its effects. In a word, we must not waste our time, and impose upon ourselves, by endeavouring to show beforehand what reason can do ; we ought to proceed according to a different and a safer plan, and inquire what it has actually done.

It may be proper to remark, that there are two senses in which reason may be understood, and consequently, that what is true of it in one sense, may not be true in another. First, reason may signify the high intellectual ability with which man was endowed at his creation; and which we may conceive to have been as sufficient to direct him in his original state, as instinct is to direct the lower animals, both being perfect in their kind. I would not affirm, however, that even then reason was his only guide, because it appears from the sacred history that he lived in familiar intercourse with his Maker, and was favoured with occasional communications of his will. Secondly, reason may signify the intellectual powers of man in his present state, when he feels the effects of the fall in all his faculties, and both his mind and conscience are defiled. It is with reason in this sense alone that we have at present to do. It is no more an impeachment of the wisdom and goodness of God to affirm the incompetence of corrupt reason in matters of religion, than it is to say, that an eye, which in consequence of disease does not see at all, or sees imperfectly, is unfit for the purpose which it was originally intended to serve.

From the preceding observations, we perceive that it is not from theory but from experiment, not from conjecture but from fact, that we can ascertain what assistance may be expected from reason in the study of theology. Let us, then, review some of the doctrines of what is called natural religion, and is supposed properly to lie within the province of reason, that we may see what has been the result of its researches.

The first principle of religion is the existence of God, who made us, and to whom we owe homage and obedience. No doubt seems to be entertained that this fundamental truth is demonstrable by reason; and, accordingly, there are many books in which it is evinced by arguments so strong and conclusive, that it is not easy to conceive how any man who has attended tot hem can continue an atheist. The metaphysician, we should think, would be overpowered by the profound reasonings of Clarke ; and the man of a plainer understanding, by the more obvious proofs collected in the writings of Ray, and Derham, and Paley. There is one thing which ought not to be overlooked, that this triumphant demonstration, as it may be justly called, is found only in the writings of Christians; for although a similar train was pursued by some of the heathen philosophers,—as Cicero in his work concerning the nature of the gods, and Socrates in the dialogues of Xenophon,--the illustration was not so ample as it is now made by the discoveries of modern philosophy, nor was the conclusion to which it naturally led, drawn with equal clearness and confidence. The cause of this difference we are at no loss to divine. To the Gentiles, the existence of God was a point involved in doubt, an inference to be deduced from premises ; and they who saw some steps of the process, were not always able to see with equal distinctness the result. When Christians sit down to discuss the subject, they are fully convinced of the fact; and how different it is to discover an unknown truth, by a slow induction of particulars, and to find out proofs of a truth already admitted ; how much easier the one process is than the other, you will perceive upon the slightest reflection. The former is like the voyage of Columbus, who did not know whether there was such a country as America, and had nothing but probability to support him amidst the difficulties and perils of the enterprise ; the latter is like the same voyage now, when the place being known, ihe sailor can shape his course to it by his chart and his compass.

Nature, it is acknowledged, cries aloud in all her works that there is a God; “ but she spoke in vain," as a late writer observes, “ to the sages of antiquity, who either altogether failed to interpret her language, or suffered the still whisper of divine philosophy' to be lost amidst the various bustle of the world.”

"The ancients, imperfect as their sciences were, knew more than enough of the harmony and design of the universe, to draw out an unanswerable argument from final causes; and in point of fact, they did draw out both that and other arguments so far as to leave us indisputable proof, that the God of NATURAL THEOLOGY will never be any thing more than the dumb idol of philosophy; neglected by the philosopher himself, and unknown to the multitude, acknowledged in ihe closet, and forgotten in the world.” * This truth made no impression upon their minds, and it is not surprising that it did not. as their notions of it were exceedingly imperfect and erroneous. 6. The idea of what has been called the personality of the Deity, or his distinct subsistence, was in a great measure unknown to them. The Deity was considered not so much an intelligent being, as an animating power diffused throughout the world ; and was introduced into their speculative system to account for the motion of that passive mass of matter, which was supposed coeval and co-existing with himself.” In practice, they adopted the polytheism of their country, and paid religious honours to the endless train of gods and goddesses, who were acknowledged by the vulgar. There was not a nation upon earth but the Jews, in which the living and true God was adored. Every object was mistaken for him ; every part of the universe was deified, and fancy exerted its creative power in superadding a multitude of imaginary beings ; insomuch, that the gods of Greece, that seat of refinement and philosophy, amounted to thirty thousand. In modern India, where science has been long cultivated, the number is still greater, and we are astonished at the information that its gods are estimated by millions. † Such are the achievements of reason with respect to the first principle of religion.

In the second place, it is the office of religion to inform us of our relation to God, because this is the foundation of our duty to him. Although we should conceive the existence of an all-perfect being, if there subsisted no connexion between him and us, how much soever his excellencies might excite our admiration, he would have no claim to our homage and obedience. By us, God is regarded in the characters of our Creator and Governor; and these ideas are so familiar to our minds, so interwoven with our sentiments and feelings from our infancy, that they appear to us almost selfevident, and we can scarcely think it possible that they should not occur to

* Sumner's Records of the Creation, preface: Vol. 1.-3

B 2

+ 330,000,000.

every person of reflection. We believe that all things were created by the alınighiy power of God; and, although the production of the universe out of nothing is an event of which we can form no conception, because experience has not made us acquainted with any thing similar, yet we consider the cause as adequate, omnipotence being able to do every thing which does not imply a contradiction. But men, having the light of nature alone as their guide, entertained different sentiments. Unassisted reason never arrived at this conclusion, that the universe had a beginning; nor when it was suggested, did it obtain its assent. Ex nihilo nihil fit, nothing is made out of nothing, was a maxim received without dispute by all the sages of antiquity. In the detail of their systems, they differed from each other, but they all concurred in rejecting as absurit the idea of a proper creation. Some of them believed, that ihe universe was eternal both in matter and form ; that the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens; plants, animals, and minerals on the earth, had always been ; and that the human race had no beginning, and would have no end. Others maintained, that the present order of things had a beginning; but they attributed it to accident, to the fortuitous concourse of atoms, which, dancing up and down in infinite space, united themselves at last in the present regular system. Of those who acknowledged a deity, some, instead of considering him as the Creator, confounded him with his works; and imagined him to be a soul or vital principle diffused throughout the universe, ans' giving life and motion to its various parts, as the soul of man animates his body; while others, although they distinguished him from the universe, did not believe that he made it, but only that he reduced the wild chaotic mass into order. According to all of them, matter was co-eternal with the deity, and only thus far dependent upon him, that his power was exerted in moving and arranging it. Their notion, therefore, of the relation of man to God must have been very different from ours, who believe that he made us, and the earth on which we dwell, and the heavens which shed their influences upon us, and that “ in him we live, and move, and have our being."

We could not expect those who were so much mistaken, or so imperfectly informed with respect to the character of God as the Creator of the world, to entertain just ideas of his government of it. It was natural for such philosophers as attributed the present system to chance, to deny a providence; and accordingly, the followers of Epicurus represented the gods as indolently reposing in their own region of undisturbed felicity, and beholding with indifference the concerns of mortals. The sentiments of some other philosophers were different; and we are delighted to hear them expressing themselves in a manner approaching, in accuracy and sublimity, to the discourses of those who have derived their knowledge from the high source of revelation.

* Of religion towards the gods," says Epictetus, "this is the principal thing, to formn right conceptions of them as existing, and administering all things well and justly; to obey them, and acquiesce in all things that happen, and to follow willingly as being under the conduct of the most excellent mind.” But the elevated language of the Stoics loses much of its value, when we reflect upon their doctrine of fate, which meant some inexplicable necessity by which all things were controlled, and to which gods as well as men were compelled to yield. The world, then, was not properly governed by the gods; but they, as well as their nominal subjects, were governed by fate, and bound by the eternal and inviolable chain of causes and effects. The opinion of the vulgar was more simple. The dominion of the gods was acknowledged by their prayers and thanksgivings, and other religious services; but even in their creed, the power of the gods was circumscribed by stern irresistible necessity, or was exercised with all the wantonness of caprice, and, as they did not hesitate to say, in some instances with injustice. The idea of a Providence

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