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· Reason, mere human reason, and the wisdom of this world, powerfully oppose themselves to vital experimental religion; though the promise standeth sure, that they shall never prevail against it. Let the learned rationalists continue to wander in labyrinths of error. *
To what end is this scoff at the reasoning faculty in man? Why is it confounded with “ the wisdom of this world ?"-a term which in scripture language conveys an idea of arrogant impiety. It can proceed only from this sinister motive: a wish to seclude ignorance from the rays of light, which would dissipate its darkness; to wrest from our hands those weapons which have been so successfully employed against the direct assaults of infidelity; and which we trust, will not fail in repelling the insidious attacks of fanaticism.
Let the stigmatizers of reason and learning reflect, that these noble endowments have been the ornament and support of the ablest defenders of our holy faith; that the glorious Reformation owed its birth, under Providence, to the exercise
challenged the most knowing of them to prove, that their calling was from Christ.”—See Wood's Fasti. Oxon. p. 740.*
Mr. Hill speaks of experimental knowledge as superseding educational knowledge, (to use his own terms,) with the same contemptuous sneer at men of learning.–Village Dialogues, vol. ii. p. 23, 24. ' .
* P. 41. '
* Hume, vol. vii. p. 33. edition of 1807.
of the human mind on the subject of religious truth, and was raised to maturity by the fostering care of “ learned rationalists ;"? that the same guardians have since secured the armoury of God from the most pointed shafts which wit and genius, aided by all the arts of sophistry, have aimed at its destruction; that Boerhaave,* Locke, Clarke, Chandler, Lardner, Leland, Campbell, and Paley have successfully refuted Herbert, Hobbes, Collins, Toland, Tindal, Woolston, Bolingbroke and Hume, and have rendered all the attempts of modern sceptics, the sarcastic ridicule of Voltaire, and the malignant insinuations of Gibbon, impotent and harmless, by means of that reasoning and learning which are thus defamed. Let this consideration “ put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," who would degrade that high prerogative by which God hath specially distinguished his intellectual creatures; and having given them a capacity to know his will, has thence rendered them accountable for their transgression of it. : To give some colour to his objections against reason, the author speaks of our “ trusting to it as a sufficient guide in our search after truth;” an im
* Of this learned foreigner, Johnson observes, that “ He discussed the important and arduous subject of the distinct nature of the soul and body with such accuracy, perspicuity and subtlety, that he entirely confuted all the sophistry of Epicurus, Hobbes, and Spinosa, and equally raised the characters of his piety and erudition." Life of Boerhaave skin'i
putation which he repeats afterwards, in terms, however, that are materially different: “ If you mean to charge those with enthusiasm who do not trust to the guidance of their own reason in matters of religion, I must be allowed to differ from you."*+ We allege no such charge; nor do we “ fix the term enthusiast or fanatic indifferently on all those who acknowledge and lament their utter ruin and lost estate by the
* For the full iinport of the term enthusiasm, as contrasted with reason, the reader is referred to a passage already cited, from Mr. Rowland Hill; where having instanced " the conversion of a profligate in the extreme,” he asks exultingly, “Can the advocates of mere reason and morality produce such miracles of grace as these?” Allowing this eminent preacher all the superiority he claims, of which we pretend not to dispute the palm, may we be permitted humbly to observe, that we are not the advocates of mere reason and morality, but of enlightened reason, and christian morality, which derive all efficacy and virtue from the God of light and truth; “ from him as we acknowledge in our daily prayers all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works. do proceed; but they proceed from him in such a manner as still to be our desires, our counsels, and our works. We know we cannot come to Christ except the father draw us, and therefore we are sure that as many as come are drawn; but then they are drawn by the cords of a man-invited and wrought upon by the dictates of reason, by the instructions and exhortations of God's word, by the admonitions and checks of their own consciences, in a manner suitable to their rational nature and faculties ; in a way that requires their own co-operation and consent; and the more men work, the more God will work with them.”Sermons by Dean Stanhope, on several Occasions, Serm. 7.
† P. 39.
fall.”* We disclaim the accusation; neither do we trust in reason, nor in any other faculty of so imperfect a being as man. We use it indeed as our “ guide in the search of truth," but with submissive deference to him who hath promised to lead us into all truth, and hath directed our course by the light of his word, and the revelation of his will. In “ matters of religion" generally we trust solely to that revelation, and place no confidence in the discovery of our own understanding. We know that “spiritual things are spiritually discerned ;” nor do we strain the view of reason, to penetrate the depths of divine wisdom, and scan the secret decrees of the Almighty, to “ seek out the things that are too hard for it, or to search the things that are above its strength.”+
We believe that “reason, till she has been taught by the lively oracles of God, knows nothing of the spiritual life, and the food brought down from Heaven for its sustenance.” | We are assured that till Christ made known the way of life, we walked in the valley of the shadow of death. Reason was perverted, misled by false philosophy, and clouded by the grossest sensuality. But though the heathen became “ vain in their imagination, and their foolish heart was darkened,” still they might have “understood
* Willat, p. 15. .
+ Ecclus. iii. 21. | Horsley's Primary Charge in the Diocese of St. David's,
the eternal power and godhead; because, that which may be known of God was manifested in them, for God had shewed it unto them, so that they were without excuse.”*
It was their condemnation, that they would not glorify God, who “ left not himself without witness” even then, but “worshipped the creature more than the creator.” It is our condemnation that “ light is come into the world, and we love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil.” But reason is the principle. which distinguishes between good and evil, light and darkness; aided, not suppressed by the influence of the Holy Ghost'; † and even that which is spiritually discerned, is approved as the object of our search by the human intellect.
* Rom. i. 19, 20.
+ “God, when he illuminates the mind with supernatural light, does not extinguish that which is natural. If he would have us assent to the truth of any proposition, he either evidences that truth by the usual methods of natural reason, or else makes it known to be a truth, which he would have us assent to by his authority, and convinces us that it is from him, by some marks which reason cannot be mistaken in. Reason must be our last judge and guide in every thing.” I do not mean that we must consult reason, and examine whether a proposition, revealed from God, can be made out by natural principles; and if it cannot, that then we may reject it: but, consult it we must, and by it examine whether it be a revelation from God or no.-Locke on Enthusiasm, vol. i. 349. fol. edit.
This passage may furnish a hint to the Barrister, as well as the Methodist.