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always keep pace with each other: hence that memorable confession of Socrates, "All that I know is, that I know nothing;" and hence that remarkable declaration of St. Paul, 'If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know."
It is impossible, that any thing should have a greater tendency to keep man at a distance from God than that arrogant self-sufficiency with which modern free-thinkers are usually puffed up. This unhappy disposition must be totally subdued before we can come to the Fountain-Head of pure intelligence; James i. 5; and to effect this, the Almighty permits our understanding to be embarrassed and confounded till it is constrained to bow before his supreme wisdom, in acknowledgment of its own imbecility. But it is always with the utmost difficulty, and not till after a thousand vain devices have been practised, that human nature can be forced into this state of selfabasement. Here Socrates and St. Paul may be regarded as happy companions, experiencing, in common, that submissive meekness and that profound humility which are so terrible to many professors of wisdom. And it is but reasonable, that the piety of the one and the philosophy of the other should have been established upon the basis of those rare virtues which formed the ground of the following address from Christ to his Father: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Matt. xi. 25.
It becomes us so much the more to moderate the sallies of an impatient curiosity, with respect to truths of a mysterious nature, since Christ himself has given us an example of the obedience due to the following apostolic precept: "Let no man think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but let him think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Rom. xii. 3. This condescending Saviour was content, as Son of man, to remain in the humble ignorance of which we speak. If, in order to have satisfied his curiosity, with respect to the day of judgment, he had attempted to explore the secret councils of the Almighty, there can be no
doubt but his gracious Father would have admitted him into that impenetrable sanctuary. But he rather chose to leave among his followers an example of the most perfect respect and resignation to the will of that Father.
What was said by St. Paul concerning heresies, may with propriety be applied to that obscurity which accompanies the doctrines of the gospel: "There must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest." 1 Cor. xi. 19. M. de Voltaire, who saw not any utility in the proof here mentioned by the apostle, was accustomed to censure revelation, because the doctrines it proposes are incapable of such incontestable evidence as mathematical problems. He considered not, that lines, circles, and triangles, falling immediately under the senses, are subjects of investigation peculiarly suited to the natural man. He recollected not that many of Euclid's demonstrations are as incomprehensible to the greater part of mankind, as the mysteries of our holy religion are incomprehensible to the generality of philosophers. And lastly, he perceived not that, if all men were to pique themselves upon their skill in mathematics, and were equally interested in the proportions of circles, squares, and triangles, as in those relations which subsist between fallen man and an incomprehensible God, there would be excited, among ignorant mathematicians, as many warm disputes as are continually arising among ill-instructed Christians.
The justness of these observations will become more apparent if we consider the importance of that virtue which is called in scripture language "the obedience of faith." Rom. xvi. 26. Man originally suffered himself to be seduced with the hope of wonderful effects to be produced by the fruit of a mysterious tree, founding his frail hope upon the simple declaration of the tempter. God, in order to humble the soul, is pleased to restore us through the hope of powerful effects to be produced by the truths of a mysterious revelation; a sweet hope, whose only basis is the simple declaration of the God of truth. And it is undoubtedly reasonable, in every respect, that the cause of
our restoration should be thus directly opposed to the cause of our fall. The obedience that is unattended with difficulties can never be regarded as a reasonable proof of our fidelity to God. Had he merely commanded us to believe that the whole is greater than a part, or that two and two make four; in such case, no room would have been left for a reasonable distribution of rewards and punishments. The Deity could not possibly have been disobeyed, since we can no more refuse our assent to these manifest truths, than we can deny the existence of the sun, while we are rejoicing in his meridian brightness. It appears, therefore, perfectly necessary, that every truth proposed to the faith of man, in his probationary state, should have an obscure as well as a luminous side, that it may leave place for the mature deliberation, and, of consequence, for the merit or demerit, of those who are called to the obedience of faith.
To desire a revelation without any obscurity, is to desire a day without night, a summer without winter, a sky without a cloud. And what should we gain by such an exchange? or rather, what should we not lose, if those intentional obscurities which conceal some parts of celestial truth should be as needful to man in his present situation, as those clouds which frequently deform the face of the heavens are beneficial to the earth? The faith which is unaccompanied with anything mysterious no more merits the name of faith, than the tranquillity of a man who has never been in the way of danger deserves the name of bravery. An expression of our Lord's to one of his doubting disciples is sufficient to throw the most convincing light upon this matter. "Thomas," said he, "because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed;" but what recompence or praise can be due to such a faith? "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." John xx. 29.
To conclude: what occasion would there be for the exercise of either wisdom or virtue, was the one only good path presented so clearly to our view, that it would be difficult to make choice of any other? Or to what good purpose could true philosophy then serve, which has no
other use, except that of teaching us to regulate our principles, and govern our actions, in a manner more suited to the perfection of our nature than is customary with those who are actuated by prejudice and passion?
From all these observations, it may justly be argued, that to insist upon having religious doctrines without obscurity, and a revelation without mystery, is to destroy the design of the supreme Being, who hath placed us here in a state of trial. It is to confound the goal with the course, the conflict with the triumph, and earth with heaven. Nay, more; it is to confound the creature with the Creator. That which is finite must never hope to comprehend the heights and depths of infinity. Archangels themselves, though endued with inconceivable degrees of wisdom and purity, will continually find unfathomable abysses in the divine nature. And if so, is it not to abjure good sense, as well as revelation, to turn our back upon the temple of truth, because there is found in it a most holy place, which the profane are never suffered to enter, and the furniture of which even true worshippers can neither clearly explain nor fully comprehend?
IN ANSWER TO THE GRAND OBJECTION OF PHILOSOPHERS AGAINST THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL, IT IS ARGUED, THAT THE ADVANTAGES OF THE REDEMPTION ARE EX
TENDED, IN DIFFERENT DEGREES, TO ALL MANKIND,
THROUGH EVERY PERIOD OF THE WORLD.
As sophistical reasoners had a hundred objections to propose against the doctrines of Socrates, who was a true philosopher, so the philosophers of this age are industriously framing objections to the doctrines of that gospel which unerring wisdom has announced to the world. To determine whether or not those objections are just and unanswerable, we shall here consider that which appears to be the most weighty in the balance of those two com
panions in error, M. de Voltaire and J. J. Rousseau. "If your doctrine of the redemption," say they, "is really as important as you represent it, why has it been preached only for these last eighteen centuries? If it was of so much consequence to mankind, God, without doubt, would have published it sooner, and more universally."*
ANSWER.-The doctrine of the redemption was not primarily necessary to mankind, since there was a time when unoffending man stood in no greater need of a Redeemer than a healthy person stands in need of a physician. At that time, natural religion was suitable to the state of man, and the doctrines of deism were the spiritual food of his soul. But as medicine, to a sick person, is not less necessary than nutriment, so fallen man stands in need of the gospel, as well as of natural religion. And as strong nourishment would be a species of poison to a man enervated by a raging fever, so the tenets of theism administered alone to a sinner who burns with the disorderly fervours of pride must inevitably prove fatal to the health of his soul. Thus the presumption of some philosophers is increased by the doctrines of deism, as the fever of a debilitated patient is redoubled by those very cordials which would increase the strength of a vigorous person. And this may serve as a proof, that the natural religion of sinless man is as little adapted to man in his corrupt estate, as the sweet familiarity of an affectionate infant is suitable to the character of a daring and disobedient
It is necessary here to observe, that there are two kinds of deism,-that of the humble sinner, who is not yet acquainted with the gospel; and that of the presumptuous
• M. de Voltaire, in his Philosophical Dictionary, attacks Christianity, under the name of Mahometanism, in the following words:" If it had been necessary to the world, it would have existed from the beginning of the world; it would have existed in every place. The Mahometan religion, therefore, cannot be essentially necessary to man." J. J. Rousseau was perfectly of the same opinion. "I deny," says this writer in his Emilius, "the necessity of receiving revelation, because this pretended obligation is incompatible with the justice of God. Should there be found in the universe a single person to whom Christ had never been preached, the objection would be as forcible on the part of that neglected individual, as for the fourth part of the human race."