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In the ensuing article we propose to exhibit a popular view of the argument which demonstrates the Necessity of a Revelation.
By popular, we mean that view of the argument, which can be appreciated by the common mind, as distinguished from that view which requires for its appreciation the mind of the learned, and by revelation, we mean those truths concerning God and man, which could never be known by the latter without an express communication from the former; or which hu. man reason, of itself, could never carry beyond the light of mere possibility or conjecture. Moral and religious truths, which are discoverable by human reason, or the certainty of which the human mind may of itself reasonably know, may be divinely taught in connection with a revelation; and when so taught, may come with peculiar clearness, beauty, and force. They may be clothed with the authority of inspiration, but they can not strictly be called a revelation. That only is to be considered as revealed which man could not otherwise know, or which, of himself, he could see in no other light than that of mere possibility or conjecture.
The argument which demonstrates the necessity of a revela. VOL. VI.-40
tion in this sense of the term, is, of course, addressed to those who admit the Being of God, as the Intelligent Designer, the Almighty Creator, and the Righteous Governor of the universe. For those who deny this fundamental principle of all religion, it is enough to say that our business is not with them. We deal at present with those only who stand on at least one ground common to themselves and those who receive the Christian revelation.
We say the Christian revelation, because we shall spend no time in discussing the question between that and any other alleged revelation. We shall at once take it for granted that the question lies, not between the Bible and some other book as a professed revelation, but-between the Bible and no revelation.
From these simple preliminaries, we proceed directly to our subject. It falls naturally under two general heads: first, the necessity of a revelation to communicate sufficiently clear, full, and certain views of the character and will of God, and of the duty and destiny of man; and, second, the necessity of a revelation to give these views their full intended effect.
I. First, then, the necessity of a revelation to communicate sufficiently clear, full, and certain views of the character and will of God, and of the duty and destiny of men.
In handling this topic, we shall not begin with the antiquity of our race, and run forward on the course of time to see what human reason has been able to do in finding out God. So intimately have the influences of the Bible become mixed with every thing moral and religious, and so difficult, rather so impossible, would it be, by such a forward process, to separate those influences from the simple unaided workings and discoveries of the human mind itself, that we choose to begin with the present and to run backwards on the course of time, for the purpose of making the more effectually a separation which, in order to do justice to this subject, has become indispensable. We must, so far as it is possible, conceive ourselves, in all respects, in the condition which would have been ours, had the Bible, as an alleged revelation from God, never existed. Let us make the attempt.
Take away the Bible: suppose it not merely annihilated, but never to have been in existence, either in whole or in part, either in written documents or in traditionary substitutes. Suppose that not a line of either Old or New Testament, or any substitute therefor, as a revelation from God, had ever been written, or in any way communicated to man. What have we now done? Simply taken a book out of existence? or merely got rid of the fact that such a book, or some equivalent for such a book, ever existed? This is the least part of the subtraction! We have wrought a change in the moral and intellectual condition of the human race, of which the mind can with difficulty conceive. We have taken away the life, from beginning to end, of the Hebrew State; all the spirit and soul which the ancient Scriptures ever imparted to that most won. derful, that most widely and deeply and permanently influential people that ever trode the earth. We have, moreover, taken away the whole Christian dispensation, as founded on those Ancient Scriptures and developed under the New. We have taken away the Christian Sabbath, with all the powerful influences which it has exerted in improving and sustaining in the public mind a rectified and pure moral conscience, in exciting and cultivating among men habits of calm and sober thought, and in thus giving quick and efficacious action to wholesome discipline, to salutary law and to good government. We have taken away all the public ordinances and holy rites of our religion—the Christian worship of Almighty God, with all its sobering, hallowing, invigorating, and comforting energies. We have taken away the Christian ministry, with all its manifold labors, and heavenly instructions, and incalculable power in turning sinful men from the way of transgression to holiness and peace. In short, we have taken away what has hitherto stood as the visible Church of God, founded on alleged Revelation, the Recipient, the Keeper, and the Distributor of a written Bible, we have taken it clean away, and with it the whole system of outward means for maintaining a spiritual communication between earth and heaven. Since, without a written Bib'e, or some equivalent, a visible Church could never have existed; or if some such thing had been
originated by chance, it could never have been kept from mingling and losing itself in the corrupting masses of a dark world.
Nor is this the whole of the vast subtraction. With the Bible, we have stricken from existence every thing else that has ever grown, directly or indirectly, from the Bible. We have not merely taken down-we have precluded from existence, the whole of that great and beautiful frame-work of means and measures, which, under the prompting and auspices of the Bible, has been reared for the moral amelioration and even the physical improvement of our race. To see a little of what this item in the subtraction includes, we have taken from all the countless libraries on earth, and from all the other books under heaven, every trace and every influence of Bible literature ; every turn of holy thought, every shade of religious and even of moral sentiment, every coloring of beautiful and heavenly truth which the Bible has ever spread on the page of letters; and we have left neither Christian author nor trace of his system beneath the sun. We have taken away even all the controversial writings, which, although, for a while, they excited personal enmity and party hostility, were yet so power. ful in clearing from the moral and religious atmosphere those mists of error and those clouds of falsehood which had come over the Christian world from the border-lands of heathenism. We have left no infiltration, however slight or secret, of Christian thought, feeling, or principle any where in all the veins, pores, or tissues of the whole body of human writings and works of art—whether of history or of biography, of philosophy or of science, of law or of ethics, of poetry or of eloquence, of music or of painting, of sculpture or of architecture. We have taken away all Christian family religion, and all the sacred counsels and all the holy prayers which the Bible has ever prompted in the hearts of Christian fathers and of Christian mothers, and which has been so copiously poured on the infant hearts and the opening minds of so many millions of our race. We have taken away all the influence which the Bible has ever had on systems of education, on schools and teachers; and all that it has ever done for our wondrously
complex system of benevolent means for the welfare of the bodies and for the salvation of the souls of men ; and all that it has ever done for our trnly noble system of civil liberty and free toleration in government and in religion, for the influence of the Bible here has been immeasurable. Absolute monarchy and crushing despotism are, more or less remotely, the growth of ancient heathenism; while generous civil liberty and true religions freedom are connatural with that spirit of kindness and justice, peace and love, which the Bible breathes.
But we have taken all, all away, and what have we left? We have stricken a sun from the moral firmament, and have put out all the brightest lights besides—those planets in the spiritual heavens which gathered and reflected their glory from it; and we have left but a few faint stars and wandering comets, which beguile or startle, but do little or nothing to guide and give safety to a race around whom has set in a night of ancient clouds and storms!
And now the question which we have to ask is this, In such a night, what could mere human reason do towards unveiling the future and settling our relations to spiritual. being? In that night, nothing would be known of what the Bible tells us of God, of His glorious perfections, and of His wonderful works. Nothing would be known of a future life, of a resurrection, or of a judgment. Nothing would be known of a Saviour, or of a Sanctifier; of a way of pardon to the sinner, or of the means of sanctification from sin. All, so far as these and kindred things are concerned, would be the night, the blank of uninformed, unenlightened nature. What, in such a state, could more human reason do towards giving us right views of God, of religious truth, and of man's future destiny?
These things are not like the truths of science. They can not be demonstrated with diagrams, in theorems, and problems; nor settled in the laboratory by analysis and experiment; nor ascertained by observation through an induction of particulars. Without a revelation, not one of them could be carried further than to doubtful conjecture or to bare probability. Nor could even conjecture or probability ever reach more than a few of them, and oven those few only in their simplest elements. Al