Page images
PDF
EPUB

existence, and seeing, rather than merely disclosures of sense to soul. Hence we say, this goodly fratne of things, these pictured walls of sensible images, these flammantia menia mundi that encircle us around, are intended for our soul's education. They are not to fill us with knowledge, but to make us evolve it, as it were, in the exercise of our powers; they are but as the mulberry-leat to the silk-worm, which feeds upon it, indeed, but spins its beautiful fabric from itself. They are not to teach us the idea of God, but to develop that idea in ourselves, and to lead our souls to our Creator.

It is the mistake of some philosophers to attribute to that external frame of creation the origin of those ideas, which are as it were, but the busy intuitive powers of our own minds, arranging on painting the drapery of nature. We hold that the a posteriori argument for the being and attributes of God, if not altogether inferior to the a priori, is at least worth very little without it; and that this fair creation of ours is rather as a slate or black-board, which God hath given us to draw upon it those lessons, conclusions, and demonstrations in regard to himself, which in the nature of mind he hath made inevitable, than a revelation to teach those demonstrations. Nature is the diagram presented to us, and the soul rejoices to meet it, and in its contemplation to evolve the demonstration in the exercise of its own powers. And this we say again, is God's gracious method in educating us; if he had written out the argument upon his works, it had not been half so good for us; it is all the difference between the education of a boy in geometry, by writing down the demonstration beneath the diagram, and merely setting him to read it, and on the other hand giving him the diagram, and making him evolve the demonstration from his own mind.

And this brings to mind that beautiful remark of Lord Bacon, that “with regard to the sciences that contemplate nature, the sacred philosopher declares it to be the glory of God to conceal a thing, but of the king to search it out; just as if the Divine Spirit were wont to be pleased with the innocent and gentle sport of children, who hide themselves that they may be found; and had chosen the human soul as a playmate out of his indulgence and goodness towards inan.”

There are then these grand steps in the science of being in relation to God. First, the constitution and course of nature, that is, of the whole universe so far as it is discoverable by us, and more especially of this world as ruled by God's ordinary providence. From the nature and constitution of the world as it is, we arrive at the conclusions of Natural Theology in regard to God and ourselves. Our Natural Theology arises ont of the facts as they present themselves in the system of Nature, and in ourselves as a part of it. We reason first from ourselves to God, then from God to ourselves, then from God and ourselves related we reason to the future unknown world. It is a process of as strict and severe reasoning as any process in mathematics, when from given known quantities you are to find unknown. Next, as the third grand step, Revealed Theology comes down from Heaven, to meet, assume, arrange, and bring life out of those facts in our Natural Theology, under which we are shut up in condemnation. Our Natural Theology is as the lightning-rod, pointing towards heaven. It predicts the lightning, and draws it from the skies; but, unlike the arrangement of our physical science, which, founded on our knowledge of the relation between the elements of heaven and earth, we make to shield ourselves from the lightning, conducting it away from ourselves, our Natural Theology alone is a conductor that draws it directly upon ourselves, and cannot suggest any possible way of escape from it. Our Revealed Theology only in coming out of Heaven and meeting the point of Natural Theology which demands it, reveals an element of life as well as of destruction; the lightning of Heaven passes by our Natural Theology into the earth's bosom, but, if we please, not as an element of destruction, but of life. But the life is pure revelation; it is an unexpected interposition, by which to our amazement, to the wonder, indeed, and admiration of the universe, these flashes from Heaven which Natural Theology predicted must destroy us, and for which it put its points to draw down the destruction upon us, are changed into the radiance of Divine love into the stream of infinite, costly, atoning mercy, bringing salvation instead of the consuming lightnings of retribution to our souls; putting salvation in our power if we will accept of it while the lightnings are withheld, or while they flash as yet only at a distance, until it can be known what disposition we make of the offer of mercy through the sacrifice of the Son of God. If that offer is rejected; then the lightnings only are in reserve; and both Natural and Revealed religion combine to direct them upon the soul by a necessity as inevitable as that of God's own existence and goodness, and with a burning infinitely more terrible, because the unexpected, undeserved interposition of infinite mercy was rejected. The revelation of mercy was wholly unknown before-hand; the revelation of retribution becomes a thousand-fold more certain, when the revelation of mercy being known, is with awful fixedness and hardihood of guilt rejected.

In our attempts to trace the light of Nature, the extent of its condemnation of us as sinners, and the information it gives us as to that retribution which is to come, we are made to see with great power and clearness the preciousness of the gospel. We are prepared to understand the force of Paul's question, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ? 'Remark here the nature of the word used, neglect. It is not a deliberate rejection of the gospel which is needed to destroy the soul, but a simple neglect of it; just a neglect of its provisions, a passing them by untouched; that is enough. And that, viewed aright, comprehends a guilt, of the greatness of which we have no adequate conception. To think that the great God of the universe should interpose in pity to our lost, helpless, desperate condition, and interpose in such a way, at such a cost, with such infinite love, in so mighty a scheme of redemption, by the assumption of humanity in the person of his Son, and the death of that Son upon the cross, to hold back the retribution from our souls, and make the offer of deliverance both from sin and retribution forever, and that we, on our part, should treat this amazing arrangement and offer of infinite compassion with just as profound a neglect, just as heedless an unconcern, as if we had no interest in it! Ah, there will be retribution for that! If nature herself calls for the punishment of guilt beneath the light of nature, then all the powers and beings in the universe, all justice, all piety, all goodness, will call for and secure the reward of such ingratitude and contempt.

The problems of Natural Theology therefore may be stated thus. Given, the constitution and course of nature, to find out God and man, with their mutual relations. The grand known quantities resulting from this are, God, in his righteousness, man in his depravity. This found, the problem stands thus. As the course and constitution of nature are to the Divine and human attributes, with their relations, so these attributes and their relations are to the course and constitution of the future world. Or in other words, given, the righteousness of God and the depravity of man, with their relations, as gathered from the present course and constitution of nature, to demonstrate, from that righteousness on the one hand, and that depravity on the other, continuing as they are, the course and constitution of the future world. Now there being no shadow of evidence, promise, or expectation that either that righteousness or that depravity will change, but every proof that both will continue, and become clearer in their eternal relations, the demonstration hence resulting from guilt in this world of retribution in the next, is as strict and firm as the demonstration of God's and man's existence.

Now, then, let infidelity have its course in regard to Revelation, or the doctrines of Revelation : let it have its desire, and let Revelation be as though it had not been, and what is thereby gained, either to the race, or to a single individual of it, but absolute certainty of inevitable retribution ? Undoubtedly, the reason why men ever wish to cast off the claims of Revelation, is because Revelation so clearly condemns and sentences mankind as sinners, and throws the whole race, as a lost race, upon the mere sovereign mercy and grace of God in Christ Jesus. But suppose you get rid of those claims, and throw yourself back upon the mercy of Nature, without a Revelation. Are you more secure ? You have got rid of a Saviour, but the condemnation of Nature remains. If

, in throwing off Revelation and its terms of mercy, you could also throw off that condemnation, and establish your innocence, then indeed it were something for a wicked man to get rid of Revelation ; although a good man would choose the Revelation with its Saviour, rather than Nature with its innocence. But while you have thrown from you a Saviour, the condemnation of Nature falls back upon you. You have denied and rejected Christ, indeed, but you have Barabbas on your hands, notwithstanding. Is it not plain that your condition is incomparably more hopeless? A demonstration which you cannot evade, a demonstration in yourself, in your race, and in God's providence, shuts you up to the conviction of guilt and the certainty of retribution. Without a Revelation, the certainty of retribution is the most perfectly demonstrated certainty in all your circle of spiritual knowledge. You are not more certain that there is a spiritual world, and that there are spiritual beings besides yourself in God's universe, than you are that in that world the attributes of God and of your own being will be more fully developed and clearly mani. fested than they are in this world. And such developnient can result in nothing but a more perfect retribution than is experienced here. Such development promises for sin nothing but retribution. Out of Revelation you are shut up to retribution. The system of Nature itself cuts you off from everything but that. Out of Revelation you have no claims on God but just only that he should do justice upon you for your sins.

We see, then, that the system of Revelation is infinitely more kind and merciful, with all its severity, than that of Nature. The system of Nature reveals guilt and retribution ; the system of Revelation opens a world of grace and mercy. The system of infidelity is more gloomy and dreadful than the most extreme caricature of Calvinism ever yet invented, for it cuts mankind utterly off from hope, and leaves nothing but the blackness of darkness forever. If the selfishness and malevolence of human depravity are shown in one thing more than another, they are in the attempt to put out the light of Revelation; and if the madness of human depravity is anywhere especially manifested, it is in the rejection of Revelation, because it republishes the unmistakable condemnation of Nature. And hence the intense terms of detestation and contempt in which the infidel is branded in God's Word, as a creature whose light is turned into darkness, is putrefied into a glare of corruption, leading down to hell.

ARTICLE VI.

THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF INTELLECT TO RELIGION.

By Rev. CHARLES WHITE,

D., President of Wabash College, Indiana.

The value of intelligence and intellectual power to individuals and communities, has been the theme of constant discussion and eloquence in this country from the earliest foundation of our Institutions. Education has become here a household word. That extensive popular instruction and prevalent cultivation of the higher branches of learning lie underneath, as a large part of the effective basis of true liberty, of social order, of political eminence, is emphatically an American idea. Not more characteristic and national are even our scenery, our cities, our manners. Mental treasures and mental power open their influences into our republican society chiefly through their action on the great social reformer, true Christianity. By ministering largely to the potency and the diffusion among men of this powerful agent, they minister most effectively to a radical and general regeneration of the community. Here is suggested therefore an important subject of discussion viz., The Contributions of Intellect to Religion.

This is a matter of deep interest alike to the Christian citizen and the Christian scholar. It constitutes a noble justification of the large appropriations of liberal-minded Christians to the cause of sound learning: it presents a great and constraining motive to the church to encourage liberal studies with a generous and hearty patronage.

1. A superior understanding is capable of making an essential contribution to religion by settling satisfactorily its evidences. This is to be done, first, by direct argumentation, and then by clearing away all opposing objections. These labors though two in name converge to the same great result, the establishment of Christians on a “foundation of God," immovable forever.

The proofs of religion do not lie in relief upon the surface, do not force themselves upon observation, do not compel conviction. In respect to internal evidences, it is true, a sincere, full-hearted piety affords such assistance to a just appreciation of the value and

power of religious truth as partially to supercede research and reasoning. So rich in this case is the spirit's own experience of the Scriptural things of God, it either sees no need of following out elaborate argumentation, or, if such argumentation be followed, it admits conclusions with an unusual readiness, satisfaction, and heartiness. But the very communities, where an es

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »