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of wisdom, as believing it not to be attained by human
Socrates often repeated, “ that he knew but one thing with certainty, and that was his ignorance of all things.” Plato frequently reminds his pupils, that in religious subjects they were not to expect proof, but only probability from them. Aristotle condemns his predeces. sors as the most foolish and vainglorious persons in the world, from a conviction of their ignorance, and the vanity of imagining that he had carried philosophy to the utmost perfection it was capable of; though no one said or be. lieved less of Divine things than he did. Tully complains that we are blind in the discernment of wisdom; that some unaccountable error, and miserable ignorance of the truth, has got possession of us. The Stoics pretended to know all things; yet Plutarch says,
66 that there neither had been, nor was a wise man on the face of the earth.” Lactantius observes, “ They could not ex. ceed the powers of nature, nor speak truth on these (sacred) subjects, having never learned it of him who alone could instruct them; nor ever came so near it as when they confessed their ignorance of it.” Epictetus found so much uncertainty in Divine things, that like many other heathen philosophers, he advised every one to follow the custom of his country. (Dr. Ellis on the Knowledge of Divine Things.)
Socrates told Alcibiades, “ It is necessary you should wait for some person to teach you how you ought to be. have yourself toward both the gods and men. he) will do it who takes a true care of you. But, methinks, as we read in Homer, that as Minerva dissipated the mist that covered Diomedes, and hindered him from distinguishing God and man; so it is necessary that he should in the first place scatter the darkness that covers your soul, and afterward give you those remedies that are necessary to put you in a condition of discerning good and evil; for at present you know not how to make a difference.' (Stanley's Lives.) “ Plato wished for a prophet to reveal the will of God to us, without which we cannot know it.” And Plutarch says the
6 that the knowledge of the gods can be had only from them. Thus did they plainly attribute whatever they knew of the gods, or of Divine things, to no principle but the gods.
He (says The prospect of finding Divine truth by the exertions of unassisted reason will now appear gloomy. But the confidence of rational Christians is not so easily abashed as is that of rational heathens. That we may enter into a more minute examination of the pretensions of this boasted power, let us inquire :
1. Can we, by the exertions of unassisted reason, find out the being and perfections of God?
When Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse, asked the philosopher Simonides, that important question, What is God?' the prudent philosopher required a day to consider it, and doubled his request whenever he was called upon to give in his answer. When Hiero was weary of procrastina. tion, and inquired the reason of this delay :-" Because,” said the philosopher, “ the longer I consider the subject, the more I am at a loss for a reply.”
Such were the modesty and diffidence of Simonides ! One who was much more justly reputed for wisdom, exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” Rom. xi, 33. “ Canst thou by searching find out God ? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection! It is as high as heaven: what canst thou do ? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. But vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass' colt,” Job xi, 7, 9, 12. The labour, however, has always been useless : “ The world by wisdom knew not God," 1 Cor. i, 21.Among those who have not seen the dawn of Divine re. velation, “there is none that understandeth, that seeketh after God,” Rom. ii, 11. - For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God,” i Cor. ii, 11.
Suppose a person whose powers of argumentation are improved to the utmost pitch of human capacity, but who has received no idea of the existence or attributes of God by any revelation, whether from tradition, Scripture, or in. spiration; how is he to convince himself that God is, and from whence is he to learn what God is ? That of which, as yet, he knows nothing, cannot be a subject of his thought,
his reasonings, or his conversation. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to him." He can neither affirm nor deny, till he know what is to be affirmed or denied. It never will, it never can, enter into his mind to inquire whether there be a God, till he have heard of such a being, or have formed some conception of him. "The mind,” says Mr. Locke, “in all its thoughts and reasonings, hath no other immediate object but its own ideas ; so that all our knowledge is conversant about
(Lib. iv, c. i, sec. 9.) 6 Wherever we want ideas our reasoning stops: we are at the end of our reckoning.” (Lib. iv, c. xvii, sec. 9.) The question then is, From whence must our supposed philosopher derive, in the first instance, his idea of the infinite Being, concerning the reality of whose existence he is, in the second instance, to decide? Will a close inspection of every part of the visible creation inspire him with the vast idea of an incor. poreal, invisible, unbeginning, everlasting, immutable, and infinitely perfect Spirit ?
Will the idea of matter suggest an idea of immateriality ? Not unless to one who is in the habit of reasoning by the rule of contraries. And when the idea of immateriality is struck out of matter, what is it but a negative idea : that is, an idea of nothing? The positive idea of spirit is still wanting.
Will the idea of one's self suggest the idea of spirit ? This question scarcely needs to be proposed to a Socinian who holds the doctrine of materialism. Neither the idea of body, nor the consciousness which he has of thinking, reasoning, comparing, judging, and deciding-in a word, neither his intellect nor his will conveys to him the idea of spirit. Those who know that “ there is a spirit in man” might pardon this ignorance of the Socinians, if the latter had no opportunity of reading the Bible, when the great metaphysician, Locke, could attain no idea of spirit but from revelation. “ For he who will give himself leave to consider freely, (says he,) will scarce find his reason able to determine him fixedly for or against the soul's immate. riality : it being impossible for us, by the contemplation of our own ideas, without revelation, to discover whether omnipotence has not given to some systems of matter, fitly disposed, a power to perceive and think.” (Lib. x, c. iii, sec. 6.)
But if we suppose it possible for a person who is a per. fect stranger to every part of Divine revelation, and to all traditional notices of truths originally discovered by reve. lation, to infer from his own experience that he is himself a spirit, united with a certain portion of matter, and perceiving and acting by bodily organs; how can this infer. ence suggest the idea of a spirit wholly unconnected with matter, and having no bodily organs whereby to perceive or act? Cicero affirms that “ a pure mind, thinking, in. telligent, and free from body, was altogether inconceiv. able.” (Nat. Deor.) Created spirits, separate from body, are supposed not to be known; and, indeed, if they do exist, do not come under our notice.
The whole visible world, with the myriads of ideas with which it furnishes us, however those various ideas may be compounded, can never suggest one idea of what is in its nature invisible. Ten thousand beings, beginning and ending, existing by succession and succeeding each other, could never lead to the idea of a being who is “ from ever. lasting to everlasting,” and “ with whom there is no vari. ableness, neither shadow of turning.” To see imperfection and mutability in every thing around, could never lead us, by any train of thinking, to the idea of a being who is absolutely perfect, and to whom no change is possible. In a word, “ Every thing about us being finite, we have none but finite ideas, and it would be an act of omnipotence to stretch them to infinite."
2. If, unaided by revelation, we can trace neither God nor separate spirit, is it possible for us to trace the devil ? If the devil be a 6 deceiver,” no wonder that mankind should be deceived with respect to his existence and opera. tions. If Satan be “ the prince of darkness," he will not make himself manifest. It is no more wonder that Mr. G. cannot see a devil than that he cannot see darkness ; for " that which maketh manifest is light.”
3. But suppose the existence of God, the author of all good, and of a devil, the author of evil, to be already known : how, without Divine revelation, can reason as. sure us that when a man has rebelled against God, and yielded himself to the influence of the devil, God will pardon his rebellion and rescue him from the tyranny of that usurper? It cannot be argued as the necessary result of the Divine perfections ; for such a supposition would prove too much. If God must of necessity pardon the criminal, for precisely the same reason he cannot possibly have been ever displeased. If he must of necessity remit the punishment of the crime ; for the same reason no punishment was ever due. In a word : if he must of necessity rescue the prisoner, and restore him to himself, for the same reason he never could permit him to depart, or the devil to gain any advantage against him.
The pardon and salvation of a sinner must depend en. tirely on the “ good pleasure of the will of God," who 6 will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and will have compassion on whom he will have compassion.” They cannot be necessary; they must be arbitrary. If they are not necessary, they cannot be positively proved from his perfections; and if they are arbritrary, they can. not be known to us, unless he be pleased to reveal them. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again ?” Romans xi, 34, 35.
We cannot, from the experience which we have of his goodness in supplying our wants, and in providing antidotes to many of the evils of human life, conclusively argue that he is willing to forgive our sins, and to heal our mental diseases. To reason thus is to found a universal proposition upon a particular one. It is to argue from the less to the greater. This is not properly argument, but presumption. These," we might rather say, " are parts of his ways, but how little a portion is heard of him ? but the thunder of his power who can understand ?” Job xxvi, 14. Beside this: a man might, with greater precision, argue that he who lives in the wilful commission of sin, in so do. ing abuses all the benefits which he receives, and aggra. vates his sin in proportion to the goodness which he abuses; and that thus he may possibly throw all the weight of the argument which is adduced to prove God's pardoning mercy, into the scale of Divine justice. Mercies abused can never show the probability of the forgiveness of the abuse. Again : it is not true that God has provided anti. dotes to all our bodily diseases; or, which is the same thing, we do not know of such provision. Many of the