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interpretation in 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 criticism 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. (8) 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 reason 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 land-marks which it furnishes, to pursue its enquiries 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

(8) See Note A at the end of this Chapter, in which two common objections are ans vered.

where the rational evidence of a truth but nakedly stated in a 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; 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 109.

"IN whatever point of view," says an able living author, "the subject be placed, the same arguments which shew the incapability of man, by the light of Nature, to discover Religious truth, will serve likewise to shew, 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 super-naturally 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 im"portant 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, with out 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

contradictions 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. Aud 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 shew, 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,


Antiquity of the Scriptures.

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 Mahomet 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 authority so presumptively substantial as to be worthy of serious examination,—and therefore if the advantage of supernatural and infallible instruction has been afforded to man it may be concluded to be found in that alone. This consideration indicates the proper temper of mind with which such an enquiry ought to be approached.

Instead of wishing to discover that the claims of the Scriptures to Divine authority are unfounded, (the case it is to be feared with too many,) every humble and sincere man, who, conscious of his own mental weakness, and recollecting the perplexities in which the wisest of men have been involved on religious and moral subjects, will wish to find at length an infallible guide, and will examine the evidences of the Bible with an anxious desire that he may find sufficient reason to acknowledge their Divine authority; and he will feel, that, should he be disappointed, he has met with a painful misfortune, and not a matter for triumph. If this temper of mind, which is perfectly consistent with full, and even severe examination of the claims of Scripture, does not exist, the person destitute of it is neither a sincere nor an earnest enquirer after truth.

We may go further and say, though we have no wish to prejudge the argument, that if the person examining the Holy Scriptures in order to ascertain the truth of their pretensions to Divine Authority, has had the means of only a general acquaintance with their contents, he ought, if a lover of virtue as well as truth, to be predisposed in their favour; and that, if he is not, the moral state of his heart is liable to great suspicion. For that the theological system of the Scriptures is in favour of the highest virtues, cannot be denied. It both prescribes them, and affords the strongest possible motives to their cultivation. Love to God, and to all mankind; meekness, courtesy, charity; the government of the appetites and affections within the rules of temperance; the renunciation of evil imaginations, and sins of the heart; exact justice in all our dealings;-these and indeed every other virtue, civil, social, domestic, and personal, are clearly taught, and solemnly commanded and it might be confidently put to every candid person, however sceptical, whether the universal observance of the morality of the Scriptures, by all ranks and nations, would not produce the most beneficial changes in society, and secure universal peace, friendship, and happiness. This he would not deny; this has been acknowledged by some infidel writers themselves; and if so,if after all the bewildering speculations of the wisest men on religious and moral subjects, and which, as we have seen, led to nothing definite and influential, a book is presented to us which shews what virtue is, and the means of obtaining it; which enforces it by sufficient sanctions, and points every individual and every community to a certain remedy for all their vices, disorders, and miseries;-we must renounce all title to be considered lovers of virtue, and lovers of our species, if we do not feel ourselves interested in the establishment of its claims to Divine Authority; and because we love virtue, we shall wish that the proof of this important point may be found satisfactory. This surely is the temper of mind we ought to bring to such an enquiry; and the rejection of the Scriptures by those who are not under its influence, is rather a presumption in their favour than a consideration which throws upon them the least discredit.

In addition to the proofs which have been given of the necessity of a Revelation, both from the reason of things, and the actual circumstances of the world, it has been established, that miracles actually performed, and prophecies really uttered and clearly accomplished, are satisfactory proofs of the authority of a communication of the will of God through the agency of men. VOL. I.


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