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Divine authority. If that be satisfactory, the case is determined, whether the doctrine be pleasing or displeasing to ús. If sufficient evidence be not afforded, we are at liberty to receive or reject the whole or any part of it as it may appear to us to be worthy of our regard; for it then stands on the same ground as any other merely human opinion. We are, however, to beware that this is done upon a very solemn responsibility.

The proof of the Divine authority of a system of doctrine communicated under such circumstances, is addressed to our reason, or in other words it must be reasonable proof that in this revelation there has been a direct and special interposition of God.

On the principles therefore already laid down, that though the rational evidence of a doctrine lies in the doctrine itself, the rational proof of the Divine authority of a doctrine must be external to that doctrine; and that miracles and prophecy are appropriate and satisfactory attestations of such an authority whenever they occur, the use of human reason in this inquiry is apparent. The alleged miracles themselves are to be examined, to determine whether they are real or pretended, allowing them to have been performed; the testimony of witnesses is to be investigated, to determine whether they actually occurred; and if this testimony has been put on record, we have also to determine whether the record was at first faithfully made, and whether it has been carefully and uncorruptedly preserved. With respect to prophecy we are also to examine, whether the professed prophecy be a real prediction of future events, or only an ambiguous and equivocal saying, capable of being understood in various ways; whether it relates to events which lie beyond the guess of wise and observing men; whether it was uttered so long before the events predicted, that they could not be anticipated in the usual order of things; whether it was publicly or privately uttered; and whether, if put on record, that record has been faithfully kept. To these points must our consideration be directed, and to ascertain the strength of the proof is the important province of our reason or judgment.

The second use of reason respects the interpretation of the revelation thus authenticated; and here the same rules are to be applied as in-the interpretation of any other statement or record; for as our only object, after the authenticity of the revelation is established, is to discover its sense, or in other words to ascertain what is declared unto us therein by God, our reason or judgment is called to precisely the same office as when the meaning of any other document is in question. The terms of the record are to be taken in their plain and commonly received sense ;figures of speech are to be interpreted with reference to the local peculiarities of the country in which the agents who wrote the record resided ;idioms are to be understood according to the genius of the language employed;-if any allegorical or mystical discourses occur, the key to them

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must be sought in the book itself, and not in our own fancies;-what is obscure must be interpreted by that which is plain ;-the scope and tenor of a discourse must be regarded, and no conclusion formed on passages detached from their context, except they are complete in their sense, or evidently intended as axioms and apophthegms. These and other rules, which respect the time and place when the record was written; the circumstances of the writer and of those to whom he immediately addressed himself; local customs, &c, appear in this, and all other cases, so just and reasonable as to commend themselves to every sober man : and we rightly use our reason in the interpretation of a received revela. tion, when we conduct our inquiries into its meaning, by those plain common-sense rules which are adopted by all mankind when the mean. ing of other writings is to be ascertained.

It has been added, as a rule of interpretation, that when a revelation is sufficiently attested, and in consequence of that admitted, nothing is to be deduced from it which is contrary to reason. As this rule is liable to be greatly misunderstood, and has sometimes been pushed to injurious consequences, we shall consider it at some length; and point out the sense in which it may be safely admitted.

Some persons who advocate this principle of interpretation, appear to confound the reason of man, with the reason or nature of things, and the relations which subsist among them. These however can be known fully to God alone; and to use the term reason in this sense, is the same as to use it in the sense of the reason of God,-to an equality with which human reason cannot aspire. It may be the reverse of Divine reason, or a faint radiation from it, but never can it be full and perfect as the reason of a mind of perfect knowledge. It is admitted that nothing can be revealed by God, as truth, contradictory of his knowledge, and of the nature of things themselves; but it follows not from this, that nothing should be contained in that revelation contradictory of the limited and often erring reason of man. (3)

Another distinction necessary to be made in order to the right appli

(3) "It is the error of those who contend that all necessary truth is discoverable or demonstrable by reason, that they affirm of human reason in particular, what is only true of reason in general, or of reason in the abstract. To say, that whatever is true, must be either discoverable or demonstrable by reason, can only be affirmed of an all-perfect reason; and is therefore predicated of none but the Divine intellect. So that, unless it can be shown that human reason is the same, in degree, as well as in kind, with Divine reason; i. e. commensurate with it as to its powers, and equally incapable of error; the inference from reason in the abstract, to human reason, is manifestly inconclusive. Nothing more is necessary to show the fallacy of this mode of arguing, than to urge the indisputable truth, that God is wiser than man, and has endued man with only a portion of that faculty which he himself, and none other beside him, possesses in absolute per. fection." (VAN MILDERT'S Sermons at Boyle's Lecture.)

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cation of this rule is, that a doctrine which cannot be proved by our reason, is not on that account, contrary either to the nature of things, or even to reason itself. This is sometimes lost sight of, and that which has no evidence from our reason is hastily presumed to be against it. Now rational investigation is a process by which we inquire into the truth or falsehood of any thing by comparing it with what we intuitively, or by experience, know to be true, or with that which we have formerly demonstrated to be so. By reason," says Cicero, "we are led from things apprehended and understood, to things not apprehended." Ra. tional proof therefore consists in the agreement or disagreement of that which is compared with truths already supposed to be established. But there may be truths, the evidence of which can only be fully known to the Divine mind, and on which the reasoning or comparing faculty of an inferior nature cannot, from their vastness or obscurity, be employed; and such truths there must be in any revelation which treats of the nature and perfections of God; his will as to us,-and the relations we stand in to him, and to another state of being. As facts and doctrines, they are as much capable of revelation as if the whole reason of things on which they are grounded were put into the revelation also; but they may be revealed as authoritative declarations, of which the process of proof is hidden, either because it transcends our faculties, or for other reasons, and we have therefore no rational evidence of their truth farther than we have rational evidence that they come from God, which is in fact a more powerful demonstration. That a revelation may contain truths of this transcendent nature must be allowed by all who have admitted its necessity, if they would be consistent with themselves; for its necessity rests, in great part, upon the weakness of human reason. If our natural faculties could have reached the truths thus exhibited to us, there had been no need of supernatural instruction; and if it has been vouchsafed, the degree depends upon the Divine will, and he may give a doctrine with its reasons, or without them; for surely the ground of our obligation to believe his word does not rest upon our perception of the rational evidence of the truths he requires us to believe. If doctrines then be given without the reasons on which they rest, that is, without any apparent agreement with what is already known; because the process of proof must, in many cases, be a comparison of that which is too vast to be fully apprehended by us with something else which, because known by us, must be comparatively little, or perhaps in some of its qualities or relations of a different nature, so that no fit comparison of things so dissimilar can be instituted; this circumstance proves the absence of rational evidence to us; but it by no means follows, that the doctrine is incapable of rational proof, though probably no reason but that of God, or of a more exalted being than man in his present state, may be adequate to unfold it.

It has indeed been maintained, that though our reason may be inadequate to the discovery of such truths as the kind of revelation we have supposed to be necessary must contain, yet, when aided by this revelation, it is raised into so perfect a condition, that what appears incongruous to it ought to be concluded contrary to the revelation itself. This, to a certain extent, is true. When a doctrine is clearly revealed to us, standing as it does upon an infallible authority, no contrary doctrine can be true, whether found without the record of the revelation, or deduced from it; for this is in fact no more than saying, that human opinions must be tried by Divine authority, and that revelation must be consistent with itself. The test to which in this case, however, we subject a contradictory doctrine, so long as we adhere to the revelation, is formed of principles which our reason did not furnish, but such as were communicated to us by supernatural interposition; and the judge to which we refer, is not, properly speaking, reason, but revelation.

But if by this is meant, that our reason, once enlightened by the annunciation of the great truths of revelation, can discover or complete, in all cases, the process of their rational proof, that is, their conformity to the nature and truth of things, and is thus authorized to reject whatever cannot be thus harmonized with our own deductions from the leading truths thus revealed, so great a concession cannot be made to human ability. In many of the rules of morals, and the doctrines of religion. too, it may be allowed, that a course of thought is opened which may be pursued to the enlargement of the rational evidence of the doctrines taught, but not as to what concerns many of the attributes of God; his purposes concerning the human race; some of his most important procedures toward us; and the future destiny of man. When once it is revealed that man is a creature, we cannot but perceive the reasonableness of our being governed by the law of our Creator; that this is founded in his right and our duty; and that, when we are concerned with a wise, and gracious, and just Governor, what is our duty must of necessity be promotive of our happiness. But if the revelation should contain any declarations as to the nature of the Creator himself, as that he is eternal and self existent and in every place; and that he knows all things; the thoughts thus suggested, the doctrines thus stated, nakedly and authoritatively, are too mysterious to be distinctly apprehended by us, and we are unable, by comparing them with any thing else, (for we know nothing with which we can compare them,) to acquire any clear views of the manner in which such a being exists, or why such perfections necessarily flow from his peculiar nature. If, therefore, the revelation itself does not state in addition to the mere facts that he is self existent, omnipresent, omniscient, &c, the manner in which the existence of such attributes harmonizes with the nature and reason of things, we cannot supply the chasm; and should we even catch some view of the

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rational evidence, which is not denied, we are unable to complete it; our reason is not enlightened up to the full measure of these truths, nor on such subjects are we quite certain that some of our most rational deduc. tions are perfectly sound, and we cannot, therefore, make use of them as standards by which to try any doctrine, beyond the degree in which they are clearly revealed, and authoritatively stated to us. examples might be given, but these are sufficient for illustration. These observations being made, it will be easy to assign definite limits to the rule," that no doctrine in an admitted revelation is to be understood in a sense contrary to reason.' The only way in which such a rule can be safely received is, that nothing is to be taken as a true interpretation, when, as to the subject in question, we have sufficient knowledge to affirm, that the interpretation is contrary to the nature of things, which, in this case, it is also necessary to be assured that we have been able to ascertain. Of some things we know the nature without a revelation, inasmuch as they lie within the range of our own observation and experience, as that a human body cannot be in two places at the same time. Of other things we know the nature by revelation, and by that our knowledge is enlarged. If, therefore, from some figurative passages of a revelation, any person, as the papists, should affirm, that wine is human blood, or that a human body can be in two places at the same time, it is contrary to our reason, that is, not to mere opinion, but to the nature of something which we know so well, that we are bound to reject the interpretation as an absurdity. If, again, any were to interpret passages which speak of God as having the form of man to mean, that he has merely a local presence, our reason has been taught by revela. tion, that God is a spirit, and exists every where, that is, so far we have been taught the nature of things as to God, that we reject the interpretation, as contrary to what has been so clearly revealed, and resolve every anthropomorphite expression we may find in the revelation into figurative and accommodated language. In the application of this rule, when even thus limited, care is, however, to be taken, that we distinguish what is capable of being tried by it. If we compare one thing with another, in order to determine whether it agrees with, or differs from it, it is not enough that we have sufficient knowledge of that with which we compare it, and which we have made the standard of judgment. It is also necessary that the things compared should be of the same nature; and that the comparison should be made in the same respects. We take for illustration the case just given. Of two bodies we can affirm, that they cannot be in the same place at the same time; but we cannot affirm that of a body and a spirit, for we know what relation bodies have to place and to each other, but we do not know what relation spirits have to each other, or to space. This may illustrate the first rule. The second demands, that the comparison be made in

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