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will be just as wise at the close, as they were at the commencement."
I am no enemy to reasoning in religion; it is necessary at every step. But when it plainly militates against the obvious sense of Scripture, however much it be gloried in by men, and however infallible they may deem their conclusions, it must without hesitation be rejected on the self-evident principle, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
This reasoning pride sticks close to our nature. We are loth to stoop to be told our duty in plain words and like obedient servants go and do it. We wish to have the credit of making ourselves wise. Hence many infidels, incorporate with their writings fine sayings derived from the Scriptures,as their own, while they despise that blessed volume.
So the professed christian preacher, may ascend the desk, to teach and make his people wise by his mighty strength of reasoning, and only quote the Scriptures as a kind of collateral aid. He may not come forward, armed in power and argument, borrowed from the book of God; nor may he think a clear and apposite text of Scripture to be the most overwhelming reasoning.
“What Matthew says or Mark, the proof but small,
More fully to explain what we mean, let us now exemplify this great rule of interpretation by apply. ing it to a few plain cases.
According to the reasoning of Dr. Clark in demonstrating the being and attributes of God, one great argument for the unity of his nature is, that the necessity by which he exists, must be infinitely extended and uniformly the same. It is not possible to conceive, there should be any cause either to limit or divide this necessity of nature. He must therefore be one, simple, infinite, absolutely upited essence, Now this reasoning seems to exclude all possibility of a distinction of persons in the Godhead, and no mere human reason can refute the argument.
But this argument contradicts the Scriptures, and is therefore to be rejected as false. Their testimony, that God exists in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, must be admitted, in spite of the most plausible deductions of human reason.
It is the opinion of some, that sinful and holy affections cannot co-exist in the human mind. During the prevalence of an holy exercise, there is no possible emotion of the soul towards that, which is evil.
But although the reasoning by which this theory seems to be defended, does not admit of being overthrown by an opposite course of abstract arguments; yet we reduce it to absurdity and falsehood by a very easy process; it is contrary to what is written.
“I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind," &c. Rom. vii, 21, 23. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
The Aristotelian philosophy strongly maintains the eternal existence of matter, and the absolute impossibility of creation. But one text of Scripture lev. els all the arguments of its self-confident advocates in the dust. - In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Gen. i, 1.
It is a common thing for the most renowned chris. tian philosophers, and the great Bishop Butler amung the rest, to insist upon it, that human nature is not, previous to regeneration, divested of all right affection. But a very few words from St. Paul proves them all to be in a great mistake.
«There is none that doeth good, no not one." "There is
"There is no fear of God before their eyes." Rom. iii, 12, 18.
If it should be objected that revelation cannot be a standard by which to test abstract philosophical theories, because it is manifest, that it is itself nothing more than a system of doctrines and rules of a practical nature, founded on some antecedent principles of which the inspired writers give no account, but have left them to the decision of mere human sagacity and penetration, we would reply in words to be found in one of Mr. Foster's Essays.
“If it be said for some parts of these dim speculations that although Christianity comes forward as the practical dispensation of truth, yet there must be in remote abstraction behind it,some grand ultimate elementary truths, of which this dispensation does not inform us, or which it reduces from that pure recondite into a more palpable and popular form; I answer and what did the poet, or the master of the poet and the song (alluding to Pope and Bollingbroke) know about these truths and how did they come by their information."
Let the friends of revelation beware of what comes from this remote abstraction behind christianity, or of all theories, which cannot be defended without charging the apostles or other inspired writers, of being ignorant, unlettered men, sometimes speaking not according to sound philosophy or the truth and reality of things, but according to vulgar notions and prejudices,
This section shall be closed in the words of Dr. Chalmers. “Hold up your face my brethren, for the truth and simplicity of the Bible. It is the right instrument to be handled in the great work of calling an human soul out of darkness into marvellous light. Stand firm and secure on the impregnable principle, that this is the word of God, and that all taste, and imagination, and science, must give way before its overwhelming authority."
TWO POSITIONS, THAT MAY BE ADJUDGED AS THE MAIN PILLARS OF THE SYSTEM OF DIRECT EF. FICIENCY CONSIDERED; Viz. 1. THAT MOTIVE IN NO POSSIBLE CASE CAN BE THE CAUSE OF VULITION. 2. THAT THOSE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WHICH SPEAK OF A DIVINE AGENCY IN HARDENING THE HEARTS OF MEN, &c. ARE TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS PERFECTLY PARALLEL TO, AND AS EXPRESSIVE OF, A DIRECT INFLUENCE, AS THOSE WHICH ASCRIBE THE PRODUCTION OF HOLY EXERCISES TO GOD.
In his Essay on Moral Agency, Dr. Stephen West says, “It hence appeareth that there is an utter impropriety in saying, that the mind is governed or determined by motive.” p. 61.
Now although we do not in the present discussion mean to refer any thing ultimately to the decision of mere abstract reason, but to test every thing by the lively oracles of God, as the only authority on which we can fully rely, yet as this position lies so much in our way, and is the vital principle, the heart and life, of the doctrine we oppose, it may not be amiss to canvass it for a moment as a boasted metaphysical dogma. If it was a real fact that motives do never determine, move or excite, the mind to action, then indeed the philosophy we oppose must stand
good. For if these do not determine the will, we shall not surely contend that it is governed by any other second cause; and if not by a second cause, then, without all controversy, it must be by a direct act of the great First Cause. But what ideas do philosophers entertain of the terms cause and effect? As they relate to that succession of operations, events and changes, which we behold in the works of the great Creator, they designate nothing more than an established law, or uniform mode of divine operation: i. e. when God causes frost to exist to a certain degree, he causes water to congeal, and this is all the power philosophers will allow second causes to possess. Now although we believe that God, who could create matter or mind distinct from his own essence, could also create, impart, or cause to exist, energies, activities and efficiencies, equally distinct from his own; and that hence, although there can be no independent created object or energy, yet cause and effect, in relation to the works of God, signify more than these philosophers will allow. But admitting for the sake of argument this notion to be perfectly correct, then nothing can be more just than to affirm, that motives have as much power or efficiency, as the cause of volition, or governing and determining the mind, as it is possible any second causes should
e. For no law or mode of divine operation is more constant and certain, than that of volition following the presentation of motives to the mind. And to justify this remark, we need do no more than to cite Dr. Stephen West's own words against himself. In the beginning of the third section he does indeed say, “It hence appeareth that there is an utter impropriety in saying, that the mind is governed or determined by motive.” But what does he say before he closes the section? We affirm that he gives to motive all the causality we contend for; yea, all, and more than all the influence some modern philosophers allow any second cause to possess.
His words are these, "And so strong and insuperable are these