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And thus “ every good and perfect gift” may be traced up to “ the Father of lights.”
It will very probably be objected that the Scriptures refer us to the works of God, and that from those works we may learn the knowledge of God, and be led by the creatures to the Creator.
When God has declared himself to men, he justly appeals to his works as vouchers for the character which he has given of himself, and of the wisdom, power, and good. ness, in which he would teach them to trust. But unless the idea of a God lead mankind to consider the creatures as the works of his hands, his works would never lead them to him. is not by reason, but “ by faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," Heb. xi, 3. To make appeals to the works of God, as independent proofs of his existence, among those to whom a verbal revelation was addressed, were un. necessary. That the Old Testament is full of appeals to the works of God, is too obvious to be called in ques. tion. But on close examination, the true reason for those appeals will be found to be this : the nations who surrounded the Israelites were, without exception, worshippers of idols; and the God of Israel wished to be distin. guished from all the objects of their worship as “ Jehovah, who made the heavens, and the earth, and all things therein.” · On this account, the Jews were taught to sing, “ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work.”
It may be worth while, however, to spend a moment in the consideration of one part of the New Testament, in which it is generally supposed that St. Paul appeals to the works of God as proofs of the being of God. The passage alluded to, which we will examine as we proceed, is the following :-" That which may be known of God is manifest in (or among) them (the Gentiles ;) for God hath showed it unto them.” Here we see that God hath given to them some knowledge of himself. He had not left them to the instructions of unassisted reason. 6 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world (i. e., from the beginning) are clearly seen, being understood (not demonstrated by the things that are made, even (not his existence, but) his eternal power and godhead, so that they are without excuse. Because that (instead of find. ing out God when they knew him not) when they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools ; and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” And thus the things that are made, and from which the eternal power and godhead of Him who had showed him. self to them might have been reflected, were by these professors of wisdom made the objects of their worship. Instead of leading them to him, they had led them wholly away from him.
CHAPTER II. On the Impropriety of making Human Reason the Test of
the Doctrines of Divine Revelation, HAVING removed the rotten foundation of Socinianism, we may now, at our leisure, pile up and burn the 6 wood, hay, and stubble,” which have been built upon it. The unreasonable pretensions which are erected on Mr. Go's first position, are as follows :
“ To what end was reason given ? Precisely, that it might be the rule of life; the helm by which we must steer our course across the tempestuous billows of mor. tality; the touchstone of every doctrine; the supreme umpire in every difficulty and doubt. Try the spirits, says the Apostle John, try their doctrines, whether they be of God.' By what are they to be tried, unless reason in every instance is to be the judge ?" (Sermon on Chris. tianity an Intellectual and Individual Religion, p. 10.)
When Mr. G. says that reason is the helm by which we are to steer, the supreme umpire in every difficulty and doubt, and the judge in every trial, he has hit the truth more “precisely” than he perhaps intended. But this grave judge wants a touchstone ; this supreme umpire wants a rule by which infallibly to decide. A helm is certainly a necessary thing for steering a ship, whether “ across the tempestuous billows,” or before them. But surely something more than a helm is neces. sary to those who would cross the pathless deserts of the deep. If Mr. G. were turned adrift, a hundred leagues from land, when neither sun nor stars appear, without a chart, without a compass, and without a pilot, he would find that a helm alone is but a useless thing; and would well enough exemplify the folly and madness of those philosophical theologians who make Divine revelation bow before human reason. Or, if he would condescend to embark with those who understand the art of spiritual navi. gation a little better than himself, he might probably learn that while Socinian landmen throw their charts overboard, and nail their compass down to the point on which they have resolved to steer because their helmsman is a lubber, the orthodox mariners learn the course which they are to steer, only from their chart; use their compass to direct them on the course which is thus prescribed, and oblige their helmsman, though “a seaman every inch of him," to steer, not according to his own whims, but according to the directions of their pilot.
It is not “precisely” the same thing to assert that reason is the “rule” by which reason, the “ judge,” must
try the spirits ;” or that it is the “ touchstone of every doctrine" by which this "supreme umpire” is, “in every difficulty and doubt,” to decide. Mr. G. has made a gross mistake in calling St. John as an evidence of the propriety of making reason “the touchstone of every doctrine." “ Beloved,” says the apostle, “ believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Thus he makes reason the “ judge” in this question, but by no means the “ touchstone” by which it is to be tried. He gives us a scriptural test, and teaches us to bring every doctrine to the touchstone of revealed truth. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God," 1 John iv, 1-3.
That “neither Jesus Christ nor his apostles rejected reason" as the judge, we readily grant. And this, as the slightest examination of Mr. G.'s quotations will show, is all that he has proved. Who but himself would have
thought that Jesus Christ taught us to appeal from the Scriptures to the “ touchstone” of reason, when, on a subject of pure revelation, he said to the Jews, “ Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life ; and they (not reason) are they which testify of me?" John v, 39. Equally distant from the point to be proved is the text which he has cited from St. Paul, and which, taken in connection with the context, runs thus : “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the commu. nion of the body of Christ," 1 Cor. x, 14-16. Here the apostle appeals, not to reason, but to the institution and design of the Lord's supper, which is a doctrine of pure revelation.
Unless, therefore, Mr. G. can prove that grounding an argument on the infallible testimony of divine revelation is the same thing as to submit the doctrine of revelation to the “touchstone” of reason, he will gain nothing. Once more, however, let us hear him on this point. He seems to think the question decided by that saying of St. Paul, “ Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Without supposing it necessary to make
any alteration in the translation, may it not be asked, How does it appear from hence, that the apostle teaches the Corinthians to try the doctrines of Scripture by the “ touchstone” of human reason? or that he would have the full persuasion which he recommends, to be the result of argumentation, rather than of a more perfect knowledge of what is required by the word of God? While Mr. Ğ. answers this question, we proceed to remark that St. Paul is speaking of the observance of Jewish festivals ; a point this, on which revelation only could decide. And the apostle chose rather to inculcate brotherly affection than to encounter the harmless prejudices of either of the parties in this dispute. Some persons, in conformity with the context, make a slight alteration in the translation, and read the whole passage thus : “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up; for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another : another esteemeth every day alike. Let every one (εν τω ιδιω νοι πληροφορεισθω) abound in his owth sense;" for it is a matter of pure indifference. “He that regardeth the day regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it,” Rom. xiv, 4-6.
The fallacy of this common Socinian argument lies in the confusion of the terms. Mr. G. has heaped together the words “judge” and “rule,” “umpire” and “ touchstone,” and fancies that because he has proved reason to be the proper “judge,” he has equally proved that, in opposition to the divine testimony, reason is also the “ touchstone” of truth. Such is the infallibility of Socinian reason !
It is now our turn to appeal to the authority of the sacred writers. The following citations will be more than enough to prove that in matters of religion mere human wisdom is folly; that it is an obstacle to the wisdom which cometh from above; that the wisdom taught by reason ought to give place to that which is taught by revelation; and that to mingle human wisdom with the wisdom of God, is like blending darkness with light, or poison with our food.
“ Christ sent me to preach the gospel; not with wis. dom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise ? where is the scribe ? where is the disputer of this world ? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ? For after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise,”