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the Deity himself, and on the other his fallen creatures, is it at all surprising that some parts of the covenant of grace should involve questions, which concern the divine nature, and transcend the intelligence of man? If in the chain of mercy, by which the Almighty draws a race of sinners to himself, the first links be far above, out of our sight, and others surrounded with a glory too bright for mortal gaze,-shall we, on that account, refuse to follow its attraction, and choose our own ways and methods of ascending into the presence of the Most High?
How unreasonable then is it to reject any doctrine which is revealed to us in the Christian Scriptures, only because we are unable to comprehend how it can be! The words may be plain and evident, where the doctrines which they contain are mysterious: and how much safer, and wiser, and more befitting our present condition it is, to conclude, that these truths are proposed by the Author of light, to prove our humility and ready acquiesence in his will; to become subservient to the ends of religion by exercising the obedience of our reason, and probably in other ways which at present we cannot perceive. It is not intended that we should know every thing in this present life; it is
not agreeable to our notions of a state of trial that we should. Many things we must at present take for granted, upon the authority of God's Word; nor is this any juster ground of complaint than it is that a child is less acquainted with the reasons of things than one of maturer age; or that one man should have a deeper insight into the secrets of nature than another. That man acts most agreeably to his character of an imperfect and erring creature, placed in a state of discipline, who first satisfies himself that the Scriptures are indeed, what they profess to be, the Word of God; and then takes in hand the sacred volume of truth with a humble and teachable mind, prepared to believe all that is therein stated, because he finds it there; and to practise all that is therein commanded, because he there discovers the sure will of God, and the motives to obedience. This it is, to receive with meekness the engrafted word.
To apply these remarks to the great and fundamental doctrine of the Trinity, a word invented by divines, to express the distinction of the three persons in the unity of the Godheadwe maintain, that God is represented to us in his Word, as existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; yet that these
three, as far as the substance of the Deity is concerned, are one.
So plainly is this doctrine affirmed in the Scriptures, that it cannot be blotted out, but by blotting out large portions of the Scriptures themselves. It is therefore proposed for our belief; for whatsoever God declares in his Word must be believed: otherwise his veracity is impeached, and our faith is imperfect. When a question arises concerning a doctrine of revealed religion, we ask, in the first place; Is this book, the Bible, that which it professes to be, the very Word of God? That being answered in the affirmative, the next question is, What does this book declare concerning the nature and operations of God? for we know, that as this is the only rule by which our faith and practice are to be regulated, whatsoever he therein requires us to do, we must do with a cheerful and entire obedience; and whatsoever he propounds for our belief, we must believe with humility and meekness. But we find some doctrines on the surface of these writings, which we are unable to comprehend not contrary to our reason, but above it. With what feeling ought we to be inspired? With doubt and unbelief? No surely, but with an awful sense of Him, whose thoughts
are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways. May we not conclude, that these truths are purposely set forth, as exercises of our faith and piety? Why should not God require of us, as well that we should beat down and subdue the pride of reason, that disease of the soul which brought sin and death into the world, as that we should mortify the evil inclinations of the body?
It may perhaps be objected, that this course of argument tends to disparage and degrade the authority of that reason, which has been implanted in us by our Creator for the purpose of investigating truth; that it limits its range to subjects comparatively unimportant, and imposes restraints upon it in the most interesting of all inquiries; and that there are no sufficient grounds for circumscribing its province in questions of a religious kind, while it is left to expatiate uncontrolled in the boundless regions of philosophy. To this we reply, that the office of reason is of a twofold kind; it is either primary and absolute, as in determining by induction the principles of natural philosophy, and laying the very foundations of knowledge; or it is secondary and respective, as in questions • Bacon, de Augm. Scient. IX. 1. p. 251,
concerning revealed religion, where the revelation itself being once admitted, the propositions it contains are self-subsistent, and independent of the decrees of human reason. Its office, in this case, is only to form its inferences from the propositions themselves, the truth of which rests upon the determination of one simple question, whether they are contained in Scripture.
Under these impressions, the pious inquirer after truth finds no difficulty in making his election, when the following alternative presents itself. You must either take the Bible as it is, and interpret it according to the established and universal laws of criticism, giving to words their plain and customary signification; in which case your assent will be required to doctrines of a high and mysterious nature; or, if you are determined to admit no doctrine, which shall be above the level of your comprehension, you must reject some parts of the Christian canon, and alter others, and interpret many more in a manner altogether at variance with the acknowledged rules of interpretation. But this branch of the alternative, to one who considers the source and nature of a divine relation, will involve incomparably greater difficulties than the other.