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“ vided the ears and the heart thirst after wisdom. “ Did any, or could any of the heathen philosophers “ accomplish such important purposes as this ?” ()
This language of the Christian Cicero (as he was usually denominated) conveys no vain and empty boast; nor does it, under pretence of exalting Religion, insult and trample upon reason and philosophy. The effects here ascribed to religion have been frequently produced by it, and will always be produced when it is allowed its genuine and complete operation. And with respect to the supposed insult offered to reason, there can be no such thing, unless that be an insult to reason, which renders its real nature palpable, and guards against the abuse of it while it teaches its proper use. Reason has been termed, and not improperly, “ the EYE of the soul :" for as the eye cannot see without light, so neither can reason know without instruction. The progress of mankind in learning and science has been made, strictly speaking, by groping, by feeling out one truth after another, and adding it to the general stock; except, indeed, when some grand discoveries have been struck out once in a century, or perhaps less, by the force of genius; but even these, whatever benefits may have resulted from them, have not been discoveries of such truths or propositions, as are developed in Revealed Religion. Reason can no more instruct itself, because it knows by instruction, than the eye can give light to itself, because it sees by the light. This observation applies peculiarly to religious matters; and you may safely infer from it,
(9) Lactan. Lib. iii. de fals. sapient. c. 26. p. 328. Ed. 1660.
that “a man may as well take a view of things upon earth in a dark night, by the light of his own eye, as pretend to discover the things of heaven, in the night of nature, by the light of his own reason.” (8) Upon these points, says a very powerful reasoner, Bishop Horsley, “ the evidence of Holy Scripture is, indeed, “ the only thing that amounts to proof. The utmost “ that reasoning can do, is to lead to the discovery, " and by God's grace, to the humble acknowledgment “ of the weakness and insufficiency of reason; to resist “ her encroachments upon the province of faith; to “silence her objections, and cast down imaginations, 66 and prevent the innovations and refinements of “philosophy and vain deceit."
The grand attributes of reason are, its capability of receiving, and, when properly disciplined, of retaining, whatever is communicated to it, and its power of discriminating, when it has suitable data, between truth and falsehood, or between fitness and want of fitness. to accomplish certain purposes. And these attributes. are possessed in the highest perfection, when, as Paul expresses it, “ the eyes of our understanding, (Tas “ diavosas, the faculty of separation or discernment,) “ being enlightened, we may know what is the hope “ of our calling, and what the riches of the glory “ of our inheritance in the saints, and what is the “ exceeding greatness of his power towards us who 66 believe.” (t) Now, if these faculties of the soul be duly exercised, it will be seen that the religion of Jesus Christ is all it professes to be, and is capable of (8) Bishop Horne.
(t) Eph. i. 18, 19.
effecting all that its advocates ascribe to it; that it is conformable to the highest reason, and is, therefore, deserving of the warmest admiration and of the most cordial reception. The religion we are taught in the Gospel leads inevitably to the exaltation and perfection of our noblest faculties: it requires us to use the things of this life as in reason they ought to be used, to cherish such tempers and dispositions as are the glory of intelligent creatures, to avoid such conduct as would degrade and debase our nature, to walk in such wisdom as exalts our character, to practise such piety as will raise us above the world and elevate us to
" His hand the good man fastens on the skies,
“ And bids earth roll, nor feels her idle whirl.” Young. If these be the genuine productions of religion, it is plain that they can never be too universally known and felt. Hence results the duty of promulgating religious knowledge to the widest extent; as well as that of bringing every action of life under the influence of religious principles : for if it be advantageous for one person to be wise, it is more so for all to be wise ; and, if it be productive of profit and delight to an individual to be once wise, it is infinitely more so for him to be wise always. If it be commendable to avoid sin and folly to-day, it will be equally commendable to avoid them to-morrow, and to the end of life: if God ought to be worshipped and loved “ with all the “ heart, and mind, and soul, and strength” now, he ought to be so worshipped and loved for ever: if the faithful discharge of every personal and relative duty be required of us now, it is equally required of us always: if, being pure and holy, and free from guile, if exercising ourselves to promote the happiness of our fellow-creatures and the glory of God, if aspiring after communion with the Deity, be productive of “joy
and peace” to-day, they will have a like tendency through life, and will assuredly issue in indescribable, unending, felicity. So that, as he knows not truly what reason is, who does not always wish to live conformably to it; neither does he know the true use or nature of religion, who wishes to confine it to times or seasons, or persons, or places. “ He who thinks “ it grievous to live always in the spirit of religion, to “ have every part of his life full of it, would think it “ much more grievous to be as the angels of God in “ heaven.”
There is a unity of design in the gift of the Christian Religion, and there must, in like manner, be unity of design in the profession of it. Its immediate tendency is at once to promote the glory of God and the happiness of man; and its various doctrines, precepts, and promises, all converge to that grarid point. Selfishness, is, therefore, excluded; while happiness, individual, as well as general, is necessarily predicated and ensured in the Christian system. Its promises allure the soul to heaven, while they prompt the believer to benevolent and upright conduct : its doctrines expand and delight the intellectual faculties, while they furnish at once the purest and the strongest
possible motives to virtue and holiness. (v) Thus it happens that the Scriptures, as I have before observed, furnish a consistent and harmonious, though not a connected scheme of morality; for the scheme is harmonious, in, so far as the same great purposes are always kept in view, and as it includes no contradictory or impossible injunctions ; though its various precepts are scattered about, and not strictly connected, because one and another were delivered at distinct times to different persons, according to their respective circumstances and necessities.
Faith and practice constitute the whole of our religion; and none of the sacred writers is ever, as I recollect, so exclusively occupied with one of these as to forget or neglect the other. Hence, Christians are not merely exhorted to believe such and such propositions, but they are reminded that such belief, to be beneficial must be influential; and they are exhorted to 6 let their conversation or conduct be as becometh “ the Gospel,” that they “ may be blameless and " harmless, the sons of God without rebuke, in the “ midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among 6 whom” they are to shine as lights in the world.” (w) : Christianity, then, is decidedly moral in its tendencies: and, therefore, since I have taken some pains to explain to you what is proposed for your belief, it is natural that you should expect me, before I close our
(v) “ Chose admirable! La Religion Chrétienne, qui ne semble avoir “ d'objet que le felicité de l'autre vie, fait encore notre bonheur dans 66 celle-ci.” MONTESQUIEU.
(70) Phil. i. 27. ii. 15.