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the same respect. If we affirm of two bodies, one of a round, and the other of a square figure, that their figure is the same, the comparison determines the case, and at once detects the error; but of these bodies, so different in figure, it may be affirmed without contradiction, that they are of the same specific gravity, for the difference of figure is not that in respect of which the comparison is made. We apply this to the interpretation of a revelation of God and his will. The rule which requires us to reject as a true interpretation of that revelation, whatever is contrary to reason, may be admitted in all cases where we know the real nature of things, and conduct the comparison with the cautions just given; but it would be most delusive, and would counteract the intention of the revelation itself, by unsettling its authority, if it were applied in any other way. For,

1. In all cases where the nature of things is not clearly and satisfactorily known, it cannot be affirmed that a doctrine contradicts them, and is therefore contrary to reason.

2. When that of which we would form a rational judgment is not itself distinctly apprehended, it cannot be satisfactorily compared with those things, the nature of which we adequately know, and therefore cannot be said to be contrary to reason.

Now in such a revelation as we have supposed necessary for man, there are many facts and doctrines which are not capable of being compared with any thing we adequately know, and they therefore lie wholly without the range of the rule in question. We suppose it to declare what God, the infinite First Cause, is. But it is of the nature of such a being to be, in many respects, peculiar to himself, and, as in those respects he cannot admit of comparison with any other, what may be false, if affirmed of ourselves, because contradictory to what we know of human nature, may be true of him, to whom the nature of things is his own nature, and his own nature alone. The same observation may be made as to many of his natural attributes; they are the attributes of a peculiar nature, and are therefore peculiar to themselves, either in kind or in degree; they admit of no comparison, each being like HIMSELF, sui generis: and the nature of things, as to them respectively, is their own nature. The same reasoning may, in part, be applied to the general purposes of God, in making and governing his creatures. They are not, in every respect, capable of being compared to any thing we adequately know, in order to determine their reasonableness. Creatures do not stand to each other in all the relations in which they stand to him, and no reasoning from their mutual relations can assist us in judg. ing of the plans he has formed with respect to the whole, with the extent of which, indeed, we are unacquainted, or often of a part, whose relations to the whole we know not, Were we to subject what he has commanded us to do, or to leave undone, to the test of reasonableness,

we should often be at a loss how to commence the inquiry, for it may have a reason arising out of his own nature, which we either know not at all, or only in the partial and authoritative revelations he has made of himself; or out of his general plans, of which we are not judges, for the reasons just given; or its reason may lie in our own nature, which we know but partially, because we find it differently operated upon by circumstances, and cannot know in what circumstances we may at any future time be placed.

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With respect to the moral perfections of God, as they are more capa ble of a complete comparison with what we find in intelligent creatures, the notion of infinity being applicable to them in a different sense to that in which it is applied to his natural attributes, and adequate ideas of justice and mercy and goodness being within our reach, this rule is much more applicable in all cases which would involve interpretations consistent with or opposed to these ideas; and any deduction clearly contrary to them is to be rejected, as grounded not upon the revelation but a false interpretation. This will be the more confirmed, if we find any thing in the revelation itself in the form of an appeal to our own ideas of moral subjects, as for instance of justice and equity, in justification of the Divine proceedings; for then we have the authority of the Giver of the revelation himself for attaching such ideas to his justice and equity as are implied in the same terms in the language of men. (4) A doctrine which would impugn these attributes, is not therefore to be deduced from such a revelation; but here the rule can only be applied to such cases as we fully comprehend. There may be an apparent injustice in a case, which, if we knew the whole of it, would be found to harmonize with the strictest equity; and what evidence of conformity to the moral attributes of God it now wants may be manifested in a future state, either by superior information then vouchsafed to us, or, when the subject of the proceeding is an immortal being, by the different circumstances of compensation in which he may be placed.

may occur.

Upon the whole then it will appear, that this rule of interpreting a revelation is necessarily but of limited application, and chiefly respects those parts of the record in which obscure passages and figurative language In most others, a revelation, if comprehensive, will be found its own interpreter by bringing every doubtful case to be determined by its own unquestionable general principles, and explicit decla. rations. The USE of reason, therefore, in matters of revelation, is to investigate the evidences on which it is founded, and fairly and impartially to interpret it according to the ordinary rules of interpretation in


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(4) Thus in the Scriptures we find numerous appeals of this kind: between me and my vineyard." "Are not my ways equal?" Judge of the whole earth do right ?" All of which passages suppose that equity and justice in God accord with the ideas attached to the same terms among men.

other cases. Its LIMIT is the authority of God. When he has explicitly laid down a doctrine, that doctrine is to be humbly received, whatever degree of rational evidence may be afforded of its truth, or withheld; and no torturing or perverting criticisms can be innocently resorted to, to bring a doctrine into a better accordance with our favourite views and systems, any more than to make a precept bend to the love and practice of our vicious indulgences. A larger scope than this cannot certainly be assigned to human reason in matters of revelation, when it is elevated to the office of a judge-a judge of the evidences on which a professed revelation rests, and a judge of its meaning after the application of the established rules of interpretation in other cases. (5) But if reason be considered as a learner, it may have a much wider range in those fields of intelligence which a genuine revelation from God will open to our view. All truth, even that which to us is most abstruse and mysterious, is capable of rational demonstration, though not to the rea. son of man, in the present state, and in some cases probably to no reason below that of the Divine nature. Truth is founded in reality, and for that reason is truth. Some truths therefore, which a revelation only could make known, will often appear to us rational, because consistent with what we already know. Meditation upon them, or experience of their reality in new circumstances in which we may be placed, may enlarge that evidence; and thus our views of the conformity of many of the doctrines revealed, with the nature and reality of things, may acquire a growing clearness and distinctness. The observations of others also may, by reading and converse, be added to our own, and often serve to carry out our minds into some new and richer vein of thought. Thus it is that reason instead of being fettered, as some pretend, by being regulated, is enlightened by revelation, and enabled from the first principles, and by the grand landmarks which it furnishes, to pursue its inquiries into many subjects to an extent which enriches and ennobles the human intellect, and administers continual food to the strength of religious principle. This however is not the case with all subjects. Many, as we have already seen, are from their very nature wholly incapable of investigation. At the first step we launch into darkness, and find in religion as well as in natural philosophy, beyond certain limits, insurmountable barriers, which bid defiance. to human penetration; and even where the rational evidence of a truth but nakedly stated in revelation, or very partially developed, can by human powers be extended, that circumstance gives us no qualification to judge of the truth of another doctrine which is stated on the mere authority of the dispenser of the revelation, and of which there is no evidence at all to our reason. It may belong to subjects of another and a higher class;

(5) See note A at the end of this chapter, in which two common objections are answered.

and if it be found in the Record, is not to be explained away by principles which we may have drawn from other truths, though revealed, for those inferences have no higher an authority than the strength of our own fallible powers, and consequently cannot be put in competition with the declarations of an infallible teacher, ascertained by just rules of grammatical and literary interpretation.

NOTE A.-Page 103.

"In whatever point of view," says an able living author," the subject be placed, the same arguments which show the incapability of man, by the light of nature, to discover religious truth, will serve likewise to show, that, when it is revealed to him, he is not warranted in judging of it merely by the notions which he had previously formed. For is it not a solecism to affirm, that man's natural reason is a fit standard for measuring the wisdom or truth of those things with which it is wholly unacquainted, except so far as they have been supernaturally revealed?"

"But what, then," (an objector will say,) "is the province of reason? Is it altogether useless? Or are we to be precluded from using it in this most import. ant of all concerns, for our security against error?"

Our answer is, that we do not lessen either the utility or the dignity of human reason, by thus confining the exercise of it within those natural boundaries which the Creator himself hath assigned to it. We admit, with the Deist, that " reason is the foundation of all certitude" and we admit, therefore, that it is fully competent to judge of the credibility of any thing which is proposed to it as a Divine revelation. But we deny that it has a right to dispute (because we maintain that it has not the ability to disprove) the wisdom or the truth of those things which revelation proposes to its acceptance. Reason is to judge whether those things be indeed so revealed: and this judgment it is to form, from the evidence to that effect. In this respect it is "the foundation of certitude," because it enables us to ascertain the fact, that God hath spoken to us. But this fact once established, the credibility, nay, the certainty of the things revealed, follows as of necessary consequence; since no deduction of reason can be more indubitable than this, that whatever God reveals must be true. Here, then, the authority of reason ceases. Its judgment is finally determined by the fact of the revelation itself: and it has thenceforth nothing to do, but to believe and to obey.

"But are we to believe every doctrine, however incomprehensible, however mysterious, nay, however seemingly contradictory to sense and reason?"

We answer, that revelation is supposed to treat of subjects with which man's natural reason is not conversant. It is therefore to be expected, that it should communicate some truths not to be fully comprehended by human understandings, But these we may safely receive, upon the authority which declares them, without danger of violating truth. Real and evident contradictions, no man can, indeed, believe, whose intellects are sound and clear. But such contradictions are no more proposed for our belief, than impossibilities are enjoined for our practice: though things difficult to understand, as well as things hard to perform, may perhaps be required of us, for the trial of our faith and resolution. Seeming con. tradictions may also occur: but these may seem to be such because they are slightly or superficially considered, or because they are judged of by principles inapplicable to the subject, and without so clear a knowledge of the nature of the

things revealed, as may lead us to form an adequate conception of them. These, however, afford no solid argument against the truth of what is proposed to our belief: since, unless we had really such an insight into the mysterious parts of revelation as might enable us to prove them to be, contradictory and false, we have no good ground for rejecting them; and we only betray our own ignorance and perverseness in refusing to take God's word for the truth of things which pass man's understanding.

The simple question, indeed, to be considered, is, whether it be reasonable to believe, upon competent authority, things which we can neither discover ourselves, nor, when discovered, fully and clearly comprehend? Now every person of common observation must be aware, that unless he be content to receive solely upon the testimony of others a great variety of information, much of which he may be wholly unable to account for or explain, he could scarcely obtain a competency of knowledge to carry him safely through the common concerns of life. And with respect to scientific truths, the greatest masters in philosophy know full well that many things are reasonably to be believed, nay, must be believed on sure and certain grounds of conviction, though they are absolutely incomprehensible by our understandings, and even so difficult to be reconciled with other truths of equal certainty, as to carry the appearance of being contradictory and impossible. This will serve to show, that it is not contrary to reason to believe, on sufficient authority, some things which cannot be comprehended, and some things which, from the narrow and circumscribed views we are able to take of them, appear to be repugnant to our notions of truth. The ground on which we believe such things, is the strength and certainty of the evidence with which they are accompanied. And this is precisely the ground on which we are required to believe the truths of revealed religion. The evidence that they come from God, is, to reason itself, as incontrovertible a proof that they are true, as in matters of human science would be the evidence of sense, or of mathematical demonstration.



FROM the preparatory course of argument and observation which has been hitherto pursued, we proceed to the investigation of the question, whether there are sufficient reasons to conclude that such a revelation of truth, as we have seen to be so necessary for the instruction and moral correction of mankind, is to be found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; a question of the utmost importance, inasmuch as, if not found there, there are the most cogent reasons for concluding, that a revelation was never vouchsafed to man, or that it is irretrievably lost.

No person living in an enlightened country will for a moment contend, that the Koran of Mohammed, or any of the reputed sacred writings of the Chinese, Hindoos, or Budhists, can be put into competition with the Bible; so that it is universally acknowledged among us, that there is but one book in the world which has claims to Divine

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