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sovereignty of this principle, by appealing to the capricious variations of this man's to others, of which we undertake to make taste, or of that man's fancy? Our maxim, out the incompetency; who, in addition to and our sentiment! God has put an authothe word of God, talk also of the reason of rative stop to all this. He has spoken, and the thing, or the standard of orthodoxy; the right or the liberty of speculation no and have in fact brought down the Bible longer remains to us. The question now from the high place which belongs to it, as is, not "What thinkest thou?" In the days the only tribunal to which the appeal should of Pagan antiquity, no other question could be made, or from which the decision should be put; and to the wretched delusions and be looked for. idolatries of that period let us see what kind of answer the human mind is capable of making, when left to its own guidance, and its own authority. But we call ourselves Christians, and profess to receive the Bible as the directory of our faith; and the only question in which we are concerned, is, "What is written in the law? how read
But it is not merely among partizans or the advocates of a system, that we meet with this indifference to the authority of what is written. It lies at the bottom of a great deal of that looseness, both in practice and speculation, which we meet with every day in society, and which we often hear expressed in familiar conversation.est thou ?" Whence that list of maxims which are so But there is a way of escaping from indolently conceived, but which, at the this conclusion. No man calling himself same time, are so faithfully proceeded upon? a Christian, will ever disown in words "We have all our passions and infirmities; the authority of the Bible. Whatever be but we have honest hearts, and that will counted the genuine interpretation, it must make up for them. Men are not all cast in be submitted to. But in the act of coming the same mould. God will not call us to to this interpretation, it will be observed, task too rigidly for our foibles; at least there is room for the unwarrantable printhis is our opinion, and God can never be ciples which we are attempting to exso unmerciful, or so unjust, as to bring us to pose. The business of a scripture critic a severe and unforgiving tribunal for the is to give a fair representation of the sense mistakes of the understanding." Now it is of all its passages as they exist in the originot licentiousness in general, which we are nal. Now, this is a process which requires speaking against. It is against that sanc- some investigation, and it is during the time tion which it appears to derive from the that this process is carrying on, that the self-formed maxims of him who is guilty tendencies and antecedent opinions of the of it. It is against the principle, that either mind are suffered to mislead the inquirer an error of doctrine, or an indulgence of from the true principles of the business in passion, is to be exempted from condemna- which he is employed. The mind and tion, because it has an opinion of the mind meaning of the author, who is translated, is to give it countenance and authority. What purely a question of language, and should we complain of is, that a man no sooner be decided upon no other principles than sets himself forward and says, "this is my those of grammar or philology. Now, what sentiment," than he conceives that all cul- we complain of is, that while this principle pability is taken away from the error, is recognized and acted upon in every other either of practice or speculation, into which composition which has come down to us he has fallen. The carelessness with which from antiquity, it has been most glaringly the opinion has been formed, is of no ac- departed from in the case of the Bible; that count in the estimate. It is the mere ex- the meaning of its author, instead of being istence of the opinion, which is pleaded in made singly and entirely a question of vindication; and under the authority of our grammar, has been made a question of memarim, and our mode of thinking, every taphysics, or a question of sentiment; that man conceives himself to have a right to instead of the argument resorted to being, his own way and his own peculiarity. "such must be the rendering from the strucNow this might be all very fair, were ture of the language, and the import and there no Bible and no revelation in exist- significancy of its phrases," it has been, ence. But it is not fair, that all this loose-"such must be the rendering from the ananess, and all this variety, should be still logy of the faith, the reason of the thing, the floating in the world, in the face of an character of the Divine mind, and the wisauthoritative communication from God him- dom of all his dispensations." And whether self. Had no messsage come to us from this argument be formally insisted upon or the Fountain-head of truth, it were natural not, we have still to complain, that in reality enough for every individual mind to betake it has a most decided influence on the unitself to its own speculation. But a mes-derstanding of many a Christian; and in sage has come to us, bearing on its fore- this way, the creed which exists in his mind, head every character of authenticity; and instead of being a fair transcript of the New is it right now, that the question of our Testament, is the result of a compromise faith, or of our duty, should be committed which has been made between its authori
tative decisions and the speculations of his | to know the mind of the Spirit, the commuown fancy. nications of the Spirit, and the expression What is the reason why there is so much of these communications in written lanmore unanimity among critics and gram-guage, should be consulted. These are the marians about the sense of any ancient only data upon which the inquiry should author, than about the sense of the New be instituted. But, no. Instead of learning Testament? Because the one is made purely the designs and character of the Almighty a question of criticism: the other has been from his own mouth, we sit in judgment complicated with the uncertain fancies of a upon them, and make our conjecture of daring and presumptuous theology. Could what they should be, take the precedency we only dismiss these fancies, sit down like of his revelation of what they are. We do a school-boy to his task, and look upon the him the same injustice that we do to an acstudy of divinity as a mere work of transla- quaintance, whose proceedings and whose tion, then we would expect the same una-intentions we venture to pronounce upon, nimity among Christians that we meet with while we refuse him a hearing, or turn among scholars and literati, about the sys-away from the letter in which he explains tem of Epicurus or the philosophy of Aris- himself. No wonder, then, at the want of totle. But here lies the distinction between unanimity among Christians, so long as the the two cases. When we make out, by a question of "What thinkest thou?" is made critical examination of the Greek of Aris- the principle of their creed, and, for the safe totle, that such was his meaning, and such guidance of criticism, they have committed his philosophy, the result_carries no autho-themselves to the endless caprices of the hurity with it, and our mind retains the con-man intellect. Let the principle of "what genial liberty of its own speculations. But thinkest thou" be exploded, and that of if we make out by a critical examination of "what readest thou" be substituted in its the Greek of St. Paul, that such is the theo- place. Let us take our lesson as the Allogy of the New Testament, we are bound mighty places it before us, and, instead of to submit to this theology; and our minds being the judge of his conduct, be satisfied must surrender every opinion, however dear with the safer and humbler office of being to it. It is quite in vain to talk of the mys- the interpreter of his language. teriousness of the subject, as being the cause of the want of unanimity among Christians. It may be mysterious, in reference to our former conceptions. It may be mysterious in the utter impossibility of reconciling it the common translation, and they may be with our own assumed fancies and self-satisfied by the concurrent testimony of the formed principles. It may be mysterious learned among the different sectaries of this in the difficulty which we feel in compre- country, that the translation is a good one. hending the manner of the doctrine, when We do not confine the principle to critics we ought to be satisfied with the authorita- and translators; we press it upon all. We tive revelation which has been made to us call upon them not to form their divinity by of its existence and its truth. But if we independent thinking, but to receive it by could only abandon all our former concep- obedient reading; to take the words as they tions, if we felt that our business was to stand, and submit to the plain English of submit to the oracles of God, and that we the Scriptures which lie before them. It is are not called upon to effect a reconciliation the office of a translator to give a faithful between a revealed doctrine of the Bible, representation of the original. Now that and an assumed or excogitated principle of this faithful representation has been given, our own;-then we are satisfied, that we it is our part to peruse it with care, and to would find the language of the Testament take a fair and a faithful impression of it. to have as much clear, and precise, and di- It is our part to purify our understanding dactic simplicity, as the language of any of all its previous conceptions. We must sage or philosopher that has come down bring a free and unoccupied mind to the exercise. It must not be the pride or the obstinacy of self-formed opinions, or the haughty independence of him who thinks he has reached the manhood of his understanding. We must bring with us the docility of a child, if we want to gain the kingdom of heaven. It must not be a partial, but an entire and unexcepted obedience. There must be no garbling of that which is entire, no darkening of that which is luminous, no softening down of that which is authoritative or severe. The Bible will allow of no compromise. It professes to be the
Now this principle is not exclusively applicable to the learned. The great bulk of Christians have no access to the Bible in its original languages; but they have access to
Could we only get it reduced to a mere question of language, we should look, at no distant period, for the establishment of a pure and unanimous Christianity in the world. But, no. While the mind and the meaning of any philosopher is collected from his words, and these words tried, as to their import and significancy, upon the appropriate principles of criticism, the mind and the meaning of the Spirit of God is not collected upon the same pure and competent principles of investigation. In order
directory of our faith, and claims a total the human mind deserted its guidance, and ascendency over the souls and the under- rambled as much as ever in quest of new standings of men. It will enter into no speculations. It is true, that they took a composition with us, or our natural princi-juster and loftier flight since the days of ples. It challenges the whole mind as its Heathenism. But it was only because they due, and it appeals to the truth of heaven walked in the light of revelation. They for the high authority of its sanctions. borrowed of the New Testament without "Whosoever addeth to, or taketh from, the acknowledgment, and took its beauties and words of this book, is accursed," is the abso- its truths to deck their own wretched fanlute language in which it delivers itself. cies and self-constituted systems. In the This brings us to its terms. There is no process of time, the delusion multiplied and way of escaping after this. We must bring extended. Schools were formed, and the every thought into the captivity of its obe- ways of the Divinity were as confidently dience, and as closely as ever lawyer stuck theorized upon, as the processes of chemisto his document or his extract, must we try, or the economy of the heavens. Univerabide by the rule and the doctrine which sities were endowed, and natural theology this authentic memorial of God sets be- took its place in the circle of the sciences. fore us. Folios were written, and the respected luminaries of a former age poured their a priori and their a posteriori demonstra
Now we hazard the assertion, that with a number of professing Christians, there is not this unexcepted submission of the un-tions on the world. Taste, and sentiment, derstanding to the authority of the Bible; and imagination, grew apace; and every and that the authority of the Bible is often raw untutored principle which poetry could modified, and in some cases superseded by clothe in prettiness, or over which the hand the authority of other principles. One of of genius could throw the graces of sensithese principles is the reason of the thing. bility and elegance, was erected into a prinWe do not know if this principle would be ciple of the divine government, and made at all felt or appealed to by the earliest to preside over the counsels of the Deity. Christians. It may perhaps by the dispu- In the mean time, the Bible which ought to tations or the philosophising among con- supersede all, was itself superseded. It was verted Jews and Greeks, but not certainly quite in vain to say that it was the only by those of whom Paul said, that not authentic record of an actual embassy which many wise men after the not many God had sent into the world. It was quite mighty, not many noble, were called." in vain to plead its testimonies, its miracles, They turned from dumb idols to serve the and the unquestionable fulfilment of its proliving and the true God. There was nothing phecies. These mighty claims must lie in their antecedent theology which they over, and be suspended, till we have settled could have any respect for: nothing which-what? the reasonableness of its doctrines. they could confront, or bring into compe- We must bring the theology of God's amtition with the doctrines of the New Testa-bassador to the bar of our self-formed thement. In those days, the truth as it is in ology. The Bible, instead of being admitted Jesus came to the mind of its disciples, re- as the directory of our faith upon its extercommended by its novelty, by its grandeur, nal evidences, must be tried upon the merits by the power and recency of its evidences, of the work itself; and if our verdict be and above all by its vast and evident supe- favorable, it must be brought in, not as a riority over the fooleries of a degrading Pa- help to our ignorance, but as a corollary to ganism. It does not occur to us, that men our demonstrations. But is this ever done? in these circumstances would ever think of Yes! by Dr. Samuel Clarke, and a whole sitting in judgment over the mysteries of host of followers and admirers. Their first that sublime faith which had charmed them step in the process of theological study, is into an abandonment of their earlier reli- to furnish their minds with the principles gion. It rather strikes us, that they would of natural theology. Christianity, before receive them passively; that, like scholars its external proofs are looked at or listened who had all to learn, they would take their to, must be brought under the tribunal of lesson as they found it; that the information these principles. All the difficulties which of their teachers would be enough for them; attach to the reason of the thing, or the fitand that the restless tendency of the human ness of the doctrines, must be formally dismind to speculation, would for a time find am- cussed, and satisfactorily got over. A voice ple enjoyment in the rich and splendid dis- was heard from heaven, saying of Jesus coveries, which broke like a flood of light Christ, "This is my beloved Son, hear ye upon the world. But we are in different cir- him." The men of Galilee saw him ascend cumstances. To us, these discoveries, rich from the dead to the heaven which he now and splendid as they are, have lost the fresh-occupies. The men of Galilee gave their ness of novelty. The sun of righteousness, testimony; and it is a testimony which like the sun of the firmament, has become fa- stood the fiery trial of persecution in a miliarized to us by possession. In a few ages, former age, and of sophistry in this. And
ciples, they sit in authority over him as judges. Instead of forming their divinity after the Bible, they try the Bible by their antecedent divinity; and this book, with all its mighty train of evidences, must drivel in their anti-chambers, till they have pronounced sentence of admission, when they have got its doctrines to agree with their own airy and unsubstantial speculations.
We do not condemn the exercise of reason in matters of theology. It is the part of reason to form its conclusions, when it has data and evidences before it. But it is equally the part of reason to abstain from its conclusions, when these evidences are wanting. Reason can judge of the external evidences for Christianity, because it can discern the merits of human testimony: and it can perceive the truth or the falsehood of such obvious credentials as the performance of a miracle, or the fulfilment of a prophecy. But reason is not entitled to sit in judgment over those internal evidences, which many a presumptuous theologian has attempted to derive from the reason of the thing, or from the agreement of the doctrine with the fancied character and attributes of the Deity. One of the most useful exercises of reason, is to ascertain its limits, and to keep within them; to abandon the fields of conjecture, and to restrain itself within that safe and certain barrier which forms the boundary of human experience. However humiliating you may conceive it, it is this which lies at the bottom of Lord Bacon's philosophy, and it is to this that modern science is indebted for all her solidity, and all her triumphs. Why does philosophy flourish in our days? Because her votaries have learned to abandon their own creative speculations, and to submit to evidence, let her conclusions be as painful and as unpalatable as they will. Now all that we want, is to carry the same lesson and the same principle into theology. Our business is not to guess, but to learn. After we have established Christianity to be an authentic message from God upon those historical grounds on which the reason and experience of man entitle him to form his conclusions, nothing remains for us, but an unconditional surrender of the mind to the subject of the message. We have a right to sit in judgment over the credentials of heaven's ambassador, but we have no right to sit in judgment over the information he gives us. We have no right either to refuse or to modify that information, till we have accommodated it to our previous conceptions.
yet, instead of hearing Jesus Christ as dis- | system moved in orbits which are purely circular, we would oppose to him the observations and measurements of astronomy. Were he to tell us, that in winter the sun never shone, and that in summer no cloud ever darkened the brilliancy of his career, we would oppose to him the certain remembrances, both of ourselves and of our whole neighbourhood. Were he to tell us, that we were perfect men, because we were free from passion, and loved our neighbours as ourselves, we should oppose to him the history of our own lives, and the deeplyseated consciousness of our own infirmities. On all these subjects, we can confront him; but when he brings truth from a quarter which no human eye ever explored; when he tells us the mind of the Deity, and brings before us the counsels of that invisible Being, whose arm is abroad upon all worlds, and whose views reach to eternity, he is beyond the ken of eye or of telescope, and we must submit to him. We have no more right to sit in judgment over his information, than we have to sit in judgment over the information of any other visitor, who lights upon our planet, from some distant and unknown part of the universe, and tells us what worlds roll in those remote tracts which are beyond the limits of our astronomy, and how the Divinity peoples them with wonders. Any previous conceptions of ours are of no more value than the fooleries of an infant; and should we offer to resist or to modify upon the strength of these conceptions, we would be as unsound and as unphilosophical as ever schoolman was with his categories, or Cartesian with his whirlpools of ether.
Let us go back to the first Christians of the Gentile world. They turned from dumb idols to serve the living and the true God. They made a simple and entire transition from a state as bad, if not worse, than that of entire ignorance, to the Christianity of the New Testament. Their previous conceptions instead of helping them, behoved to be utterly abandoned; nor was there that intermediate step which so many of us think to be necessary, and which we dignify with the name of the rational theology of nature. In those days this rational theology was unheard of; nor have we the slightest reason to believe that they were initiated into its doctrines, before they were looked upon as fit to be taught the peculiarities of the Gospel. They were translated at once from the absurdities of Paganism to that Christianity which has come down to us in the records of the evangelical history, and the epistles which their teachers addressed to them. They saw the miracles; they acquiesced in them, as satisfying credentials of an inspired teacher; they took the whole of their religion from his mouth; their faith came by hearing, and hearing
It is very true that if the truths which he delivered lay within the field of human observation, he brings himself under the tribunal of our antecedent knowledge. Were he to tell us, that the bodies of the planetary
the alone directory of our faith, where we can get the whole will of God for the salvation of man.
But is not this an enlightened age? and, since the days of the Gospel, has not the wisdom of two thousand years accumulated upon the present generation? has not science been enriched by discovery? and is not theology one of the sciences? Are the men of this advanced period to be restrained from the high exercise of their powers? and, because the men of a remote and bar
tality of written language. The question with them was, What hearest thou? The question with us is, What readest thou? They had their idols, and they turned away from them. We have our fancies, and we contend, that, in the face of an authoritative revelation from heaven it is as glaring idolatry in us to adhere to them, as it would be were they spread out upon canvass, or chiselled into material form by the hands of a statuary.
by the words of a divine messenger. This was their process, and it ought to be ours. We do not see the miracles, but we see their reality through the medium of that clear and unsuspicious testimony which has been handed down to us. We should admit them as the credentials of an embassy from God. We should take the whole of our religion from the records of this embassy; and, renouncing the idolatry of our own self-formed conceptions, we should repair to that word which was spoken to them that heard it, and transmitted to us by the instrumen-barous antiquity lisped and drivelled in the infancy of their acquirements, is that any reason why we should be restricted like so many school-boys to the lesson that is set before us? It is all true that this is a very enlightened age; but on what field has it acquired so flattering a distinction? On the field of experiment. The human mind owes all its progress to the confinement of its efforts within the safe and certain limits of observation, and to the severe restraint which it has imposed upon its speculative tendencies. Go beyond these limits, and the human mind has not advanced a single inch by its own independent exercises. All the philosophy which has been reared by the labour of successive ages, is the philosophy of facts reduced to general laws, or brought under a general description from observed points of resemblance. A proud and wonderful fabric we do allow; but we throw away the very instrument by which it was built, the moment that we cease to observe, and begin to theorise and excogitate. Tell us a single discovery which has thrown a particle of light on the details of the divine administration. Tell us a single truth in the whole field of experimental science, which can bring us to the moral government of the Almighty by any other road than his own revelation.
In the popular religions of antiquity, we see scarcely the vestige of a resemblance to that academical theism which is delivered in our schools, and figures away in the speculations of our moralists. The process of conversion among the first Christians was a very simple one. It consisted of an utter abandonment of their heathenism, and an entire submission to those new truths which came to them through the revelation of the Gospel, and through it only. It was the pure theology of Christ and of his apostles. That theology which struts in fancied demonstration from a professor's chair, formed no part of it. They listened as if they had all to learn: we listen as if it was our office to judge, and to give the message of God its due place and subordination among the principles which we had previously established. Now these principles were utterly unknown at the first publication of Christianity. The Galatians, and Corinthians, and Thessalonians, and Philippians, had no conception of them. And yet, will any man say, that either Paul himself, or those who lived under his immediate tuition, had not enough to make them accomplished Christians, or that they fell short of our enlightened selves, in the wisdom which prepares for eternity, because they wanted our rational theology as a stepping-stone to that knowledge which came, in pure and immediate revelation, from the Son of God? The Gospel was enough for them, and it should be enough for us also. Every natural or assumed principle, which offers to abridge its supremacy, or even so much as to share with it in authority and direction, but they do not make him more compreshould be instantly discarded. Every opi-hensible. He is more shrouded in mystery nion in religion should be reduced to the than ever. It is not himself whom we see, question of, What readest thou? and the it is his workmanship; and every new adBible be acquiesced in, and submitted to, as dition to its grandeur or to its variety,
Astronomy has taken millions of suns and of systems within its ample domain; but the ways of God to man stand at a distance as inaccessible as ever; nor has it shed so much as a glimmering over the counsels of that mighty and invisible Being, who sits in high authority over all worlds. The boasted discoveries of modern science are all confined to that field, within which the senses of man can expatiate. The moment we go beyond this field, they cease to be discoveries, and are the mere speculations of the fancy. The discoveries of modern science have, in fact, imparted a new energy to the sentiment in question. They all serve to exalt the Deity, but they do not contribute a single iota to the explanation of his purposes. They make him greater,