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he would so credit any report as to his own affairs, as to risk the greatest interests upon it? In difficult doctrines, of a kind to give rise to a variety of opinions, the rational evidence is accompanied with doubt; in such a case as that of the miracle we have supposed, it rests on principles supported by the universal and constant experience of mankind. :-1. That the raising of the dead is above human power: 2. That men unquestionably virtuous in every other respect are not likely to propagate a deliberate falsehood: and 3. That it contradicts all the known motives to action in human nature that they should do so, not only without advantage, but at the hazard of reproach, persecution, and death. The evidence of such an attestation is therefore as indubitable as these principles themselves.

The fourth kind of evidence by which a revelation from God may be confirmed is the Collateral, on which at present we need not say more than adduce some instances merely to illustrate this kind of testimony.

The collateral evidence of a revelation from God may be its agreement in principle with every former revelation, should previous revelations have been vouchsafed-that it was obviously suited to the circumstances of the world at the time of its communication that it is adapted to effect the great moral ends which it purposes, and has actually effected them-that if it contain a record of facts as well as of doctrines, those historical facts agree with the credible traditions and histories of the same times-that monuments, either natural or instituted, remain to attest the truth of its history-that adversaries have made concessions in its favour-and that, should it profess to be a universal and ultimate revelation of the will and mercy of God to man, it maintains its adaptation to the case of the human race, and its efficiency, to the present day. These and many other circumstances may be ranked under the head of collateral evidence, and some of them will in their proper place be applied to the Holy Scriptures.

CHAPTER XI.

The Use and Limitation of Reason in Religion.

HAVING pointed out the kind of evidence by which a Revelation from God may be authenticated, and the circumstances under which it ought to produce conviction and enforce obedience, it appears to be a natural order of proceeding to consider the subject of the title of this Chapter, inasmuch as evidence of this kind and for this end must be addressed to our reason, the only faculty which is capable of receiving it. But as to this exercise of our reason important limitations and rules must be assigned, it will be requisite to adduce and explain them.

The present argument being supposed to be with one who believes in a God, the Lord and Governor of man; and that He is a Being of infinite perfections, our observations will have the advantage of certain first principles which that belief concedes.

We have already adduced much presumptive evidence that a revelation of the will of God is essential to his moral government, and that such a revelation has actually been made. We have also further considered the kind and degree of evidence which is necessary to ratify it. The means by which a conviction of its truth is produced, is the point before us.

The subject to be examined is the truth of a religious and moral system professing to be from God, though communicated by men, who plead his authority for its promulgation. If there be any force in the preceding observations, we are not, in the first instance, to examine the doctrine, in order to determine from our own opinion of its excellence whether it be from God, (for to this, if we need a revelation, we are incompetent,) but we are to inquire into the credentials of the messengers, in quest of sufficient proof that God hath spoken to mankind by them. Should a slight consideration of the doctrine, either by its apparent excellence or the contrary, attract us strongly to this examination, it is well: but whatever prejudices, for or against the doctrine, a report, or a hasty opinion, of its nature and tendency may inspire, our final judgment can only safely rest upon

the proof which may be afforded of its Divine authority. If that be satisfactory, the case is determined, whether the doctrine be pleasing or displeasing to us. 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 enquiry is apparent. The alledged miracles themselves are to be examined, to determine whether they are real or pretended, allowing them to have taken place; 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 reve

lation 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 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 in 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 revelation when we conduct our enquiries into its meaning by those plain common-sense rules which are adopted by all mankind when the meaning 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. (6)

Another distinction necessary to be made in order to the right application 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 enquire 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." Rational proof therefore consists in the agreement or disagreement of that which is compared with truths already supposed to be established. But there may

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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 further 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

(6) 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 shewn 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 shew 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 besides Him, possesses in absolute perfecion."-VANMILDERT's Sermons at BOYLE's Lecture.

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