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floated in the minds of the heathens, but they were not able to give it a distinct and consistent shape. All that reason could do, was to point out the general truth; it failed in its attempts to illustrate it, and to erect upon this foundation the superstructure of rational piety.

Let us, in the next place, inquire what have been the discoveries of reason in morality. Here it must be acknowledged that its success has been greater. There are admirable trealises upon morality, which were composed by heathen philosophers, and may be perused with pleasure and advantage; but he is very ignorant indeed, who imagines that he shall find in them a perfect system of duty. Lactantius, indeed, has somewhere affirmed, that every thing delivered in the Scriptures on this subject, is contained in the writings of one or other of the philosophers; but Lactantius, although a fine reasoner, and an elegant writer, is not entitled to much deference in questions of theology, of which he has shown himself to be an incompetent judge. What he has affirmed is not true; for in the moral systems of the philosophers, some duties of great importance are omitted, and some things which they call virtues, when brought to the Christian standard, turn out to be vices. According to Cicero, “virtue proposes glory as its end, and looks for no other reward.” Zeno maintained,

that all crimes are equal, and that a person who has offended or injured us should never be forgiven.” It was his opinion, as well as that of other philosophers, “ that the crime against nature is a matter of indifference.” The Cynics held, “ that there was nothing shaineful in committing acts of lewdness in public.” Aristippus affirmed, “ that as pleasure was the summum bonum, a man might practise theft, sacrilege, or adultery, as he had opportunity.' Humility, which is the first of Christian virtues, was despised as an indication of a mean, dastardly spirit; and the tendency of their moral lessons was to inspire a notion of personal dignity, a feeling of self-approbation, a consciousness of worth, which of all tempers the Scriptures pronounce to be the most offensive to our Maker. Besides the morality of the heathens, imperfect as it was, wanted authority. Being rather a deduction of reason, than a law emanating from the Author of our being, of the communications of whose will they were ignorant, it had little or no power over conscience; and the motives with which it was enforced, were not of sufficient efficacy to counteract the innate propensity to evil, and to overcome the strong temptations to which men are daily exposed. Hence a general depravity of manners prevailed among the ancient Gentiles, and still prevails among modern heathens to a degree, of which, corrupt as Christian countries are, we can hardly form a conception: a depravity which extended not only to the lower and uneducated classes, but to the higher and better informed, and even to the very men who prosessed to be teachers of wisdom. We are apt to impose upon ourselves, or to be imposed upon by others, when we are thinking of the heathen philosophers. We look upon them as a set of sages, who spent their days in the study and practice of virtue. But the particulars of their history which have come down to us, and the testimony of some of their own order, will correct this mistake, and show us that they were unprincipled declaimers, whose infamous conduct daily gave the lie to their eloquent harangues. Suspicion rests upon the most celebrated names ; and with respect even to Socrates, the visit which he paid to an Athenian courtezan to see her beauty, and to teach her more perfecily the arts of seduction, and the profane oaths with which his conversation was interlarded, with some other particulars in his history, place him at an immense distance from the lowest member of a Christian church. Were this wisest of men according to the oracle, this pattern of every excellence according to the nonsensical panegyrics of pedants and fools, now to appear among us, no man with correct ideas of piety and morality would choose to be seen in his company.

Lastly, what was the result of the inquiries of reason with respect to the immortality of the soul? a doctrine of primary importance in religion. The common people generally believed, that the soul survived the death of the body, and that there was a future state of rewards and punishments; but they could assign no reason for the belief, but the authority of their ancestors and popular writers, especially the poets, the theologians of the vulgar. The doctrine had not been adopted by their ancestors in consequence of a process of reasoning from which it was the legitimate inference, but they also had received it without examination, upon the testimony of others. When thus traced back from age to age, it appears that it was a tradition, or a fragment of revelation, preserved amidst the general wreck; and consequently, that it is unfair to produce this article as a proof of the sagacity of reason in the investigation of truth. The philosophers, not content with implicit faith, endeavoured to prove the immortality of the soul by argument; but although they enjoyed this advantage, that the fact was known, and it was left to them only to bring evidence in support of it, they had no great cause to congratulate themselves on their success. Some of their arguments may be admitted to be good ; but this praise is not due to them all. In the Phædo of Plato, the reasoning is often exceedingly obscure, and arguments are employed so fanciful, and so manifestly false, that while we cannot avoid pitying those who groped their way by the dubious twilight of nature, we are not surprised that they should have produced no permanent conviction in the mind. “I know not how it happens," says Cicero, “ that, when I read, I assent, but when I have laid down the book, all that assent vanishes." After all the arguments which the philosophers could muster up, suspicion haunted their minds, that there was some step in the process which weakened the force of the conclusion. Socrates himself died in doubt, as we learn from the close of his Apology, as given by Plato. " It is time," he says to his judges, " for us to depart, that I may die, and you may live ; to which of us shall it be better, is unknown to all but God.” This uncertainty, this hesitation, we should take into the account, when we light upon some passage, in which the confidence of hope is expressed, and death seems to be longed for as a dismission “ ad illud divinum animorum concilium cætumque, ex hac turba et colluvione,'* from this vile and worthless crowd into the divine .council and assembly of souls. Their thoughts were as changeable as some of our days, which are alternately darkened by clouds and rain, and cheered by gleams of sunshine.

This induction of particulars will serve to prove the insufficiency of reason to acquire the knowledge of the principles of natural theology. Let no man presume to tell us that it is sufficient, till he can point out an instance, in which, without any assistance, it has discovered and established, by satisfactory arguments, the great truths of religion. And here I may observe, that little as reason has done, we have no evidence that it could have done so much, if all aid had been withheld, and it had been left to work out its discoveries alone. But its solitary strength has not been fairly tried; for man has never been without revelation, and, although it was in a great measure lost among the nations of the world, yet some fragments of it remained, with which they contrived to make up their various systems of religion. From this source, they derived the general idea of the existence of a God, and their notions of providence, of morality, and of a future state, and still more plainly, their oracles and prophets, their sacrifices, and the opinion of the placability of the divine nature upon which they were founded. Tradition was supplementary to reason. Its light, indeed, was faint; but still it served to show dimly some objects, which the eye of reason could not have discovered amidst

• Cic. de Senectute, xxij.

the surrounding darkness. " Though the ancients," says Shuckford, referring to their theories concerning the origin of things, but his observations are applicable to other parts of theology," have hinted many of the positions laid down by Moses, yet we do not find that they ever made use of any true and solid reasoning, or were masters of any clear and well-grounded learning, which might lead them to the knowledge of these truths. All the knowledge which the ancients had on these points lay at first in a narrow compass; they were in possession of a few truths which they had received from their forefathers; they transmitted these to their children, only telling them that such and such things were so, but not giving them reasons for, or demonstrations of the truth of them. Philosophy was not disputative until it came into Greece; the ancient professors had no controversies about it; they received what was handed down to them, and out of the treasure of their traditions imparted to others; and the principles they went upon to teach or to learn by, were not to search into the nature of things, or to consider what they could find by philosophical examinations, but, ask and it shall be told you ; search the records of antiquily, and you shall find what you inquire after; these were the maxims and directions of their studies." *

We have now seen how defective reason is in what may be considered to be its proper province, natural theology. If we proceed to supernatural theology, we shall find, that here it is altogether useless. It cannot make a single discovery. It is like the eye, which is capable of perceiving objects upon earth that are not placed at too great a distance from it, but cannot discern those parts of creation which lie in the profound abysses of space, unless it be assisted by art. The line which separates natural and supernatural theology is impassable. On the one side of it, there are some gleams of light; on the other, there is impenetrable darkness. Supernatural theology is founded on that mysterious distinction in the Divine essence, which we call the Trinity; a distinction not altogether unknown to the heathen philosophers, as is evident from the writings of Plato and his followers, but which every person acknowledges they had learned from tradition. Although reason could demonstrate the existence of God, and his unity, it possesses no premises from which it could infer a plurality in his nature. It is a secret which he alone could disclose. Supernatural theology is also founded on the divine counsels respecting our fallen race, of which no trace can be looked for in creation, as they relate to a state of things posterior to it, and different from the state in which mankind was originally placed. We may investigate the design of our Maker in the formation of the universe, by observing the apparent tendency of his works, and say, that in subordination to the display of his perfections, it is the diffusion of happiness : but how shall we ascertain, except by information from himself, what is his design with respect to his revolted subjects, if he has any other design than to punish them? Some Christians have asserted, that in the works of God, there is an obscure revelation of grace; and the celebrated infidel writer, Lord Herbert, has laid it down as one of his five articles of natural religion, that if men repent of their sins, they will be forgiven ; and this, I apprehend, is the meaning of the former, when they speak of a revelation of grace. But nature teaches no such thing; for, first, there is nothing in creation, or even in the dispensations of Providence, which, when fairly interpreted, indicates an intention on the part of God to pardon his disobedient creatures; and, secondly, the principle assumed as the dictate of nature, is false, it being the express doctrine of Scripture, that God does not pardon sinners upon repentance, without an atonement, of which nature knows nothing. But it is unnecessary to waste time upon a point so

• Vol. i. preface, 47, 48.

plain, as that the scheme of redemption, being founded in the sovereign will of God, and the purpose which he formed before the foundation of the world, could be known only by divine communication, and by its actual execution. Whether Job speaks of it or not, the following words will admit of an easy application to it. “Where shall wisdom be found ? and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, it is not in me; and the sea saith, it is not with me." " Whence then cometh wisdom ? and where is the place of understanding ? seeing it is hidden from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof, with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder ; then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto men he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding." *

It is not my intention, in these observations upon the insufficiency of reason, to insinuate that it ought to be entirely discarded from religion. You will ask then, what purpose does it serve? and to this question I shall endeavour to return an answer in the remaining part of this lecture.

Its first office is to judge of the evidence of religion; and while thus employed, it not only collects proofs from observation and experience in favour of the doctrines of natural iheology, but examines the grounds upon which any new doctrine is said to be a divine communication. As various systems of religion have claimed to proceed from this high source, it brings them to the test. There are two ways in which this inquiry may be conducted. We may compare the system which demands our assent with our prior conceptions of the divine character and will, in order to ascertain whether it harmonizes with them, because it is certain that sound reason and a genuine revelation cannot contradict each other: Or, we may consider certain circumstances, extrinsic to the revelation itself, by which its pretensions to a supernatural origin may be determined. As I have not yet spoken directly of revelation, I am rather anticipating what would have been introduced more properly afterwards ; but its connexion with the preceding part of the lecture is my apology for bringing it forward at present. The external circumstances to which I allude, are the character of the publishers of the system, the nature of their testimony, and the works to which they appeal in attestation of their mission; of all which, reason is competent to judge. The doctrines of the system may be so far beyond its range, that it shall be altogether incapable of deciding upon their truth or falsehood by an abstract contemplation of them ; while the marks of truth with which they are accompanied may be of easy apprehension, and carry conviction to any ordinary understanding. He who is not able, by his own researches, to discover a truth, may find no difficulty in estimating the force of the proofs by which it is supported. We do not, then, retract what has been formerly said concerning the weakness of reason in matters of religion, when we constitute it judge of its evidence, in which there is nothing mysterious, nothing which is not as plain to a common understanding, as the subjects which the mind is called upon to consider in the common course of affairs.

The second office of reason is to examine the contents of revelation, to ascertain the sense of the words and phrases in which it is expressed, to bring to the illustration of it our previous knowledge of subjects connected with it, to trace the relation of its parts, and to draw out in regular order the system of doctrines and duties which it teaches. Our intellectual powers

1

• Job xxviii. 12. et seq.

must be exercised with a view to obtain a distinct idea of the import of any communication which our Creator has condescended to make of his will. If we had no more understanding than the irrational animals, we should be equally incapable as they of religion; and if we did not employ our understanding in the study of it, it would be addressed to us in vain. God, having given us rational powers, requires us to exert them in the search of truth; and they are never so worthily employed as in endeavouring to acquire just notions of his character, and our relation to him ; of the duty which he has enjoined upon us, and the hopes which his goodness authorizes us to entertain.

You will perceive, that the province which we have assigned to reason does not constitute it a judge of religion. It is not the doctrines of religion which we submit to its test, but the evidence. Let it canvass the evidence, and proceed to settle by the laws of criticism and common sense the genuine import of revelation ; but here it should stop. “ Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther.” The wisdom of God must not be tried by the foolishness of men. In the former case, reason acts as a servant: in the lat it assumes the authority of a master. Man exchanges the character of a scholar for that of a teacher, and presumes to dictate to his Maker. I will not receive such doctrines, because I cannot conceive how they can be true; the ideas which they associate, appear to me to be contradictory. “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” Presumptuous mortal! the range of thy tho ughts extends only to a small portion of the universe ; and of the objects which lie within this limited space, there is not one of which thou hast a perfect comprehension. And yet thou speakest as if thy mind grasped all possibilities. How canst thou tell what may, or what may not be, in the infinite essence of the Creator, or what counsels are worthy of that understanding which comprehends time and eternity by one act of intuition ? “Who can, by searching, find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection ?"!* He dwells in thick darkness ; and the proper posture for thee is to fall down with humility and reverence before Him, whose judgments are unsearchable, and whose ways are past finding out.

LECTURE III.

SOURCES OF THEOLOGY : REVELATION.

Revelation, the second Source of Theology–A Revelation is possible ; Objections stated and

refuted : That it is desirable, asserted and proved from the natural Ignorance and Guilt of Mankind--Probable Character of a Divine Revelation : it should be fitted to dispel moral Ignorance ; it should be authoritative ; but not free from Mysteries and Difficulties.

In the preceding lecture, I stated that there are two sources from which we may derive our knowledge of theology, reason and revelation. Reason signifies the intellectual powers of man, exercised without supernatural assistance in the investigation of religious truth. I have endeavoured to ascertain what is the amount of its discoveries; and it has appeared, that the streams which flow from this source are neither clear nor copious. I shall not now recapitulate what was said, as there will be an opportunity to revert to it in a subsequent part of the lecture.

Let us proceed to speak of the other source of theology, namely, divine

* Job xi. 7.

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