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one deems it necessary to assume that a special and supernatural revelation first communicated the principles of the art to the human mind. No one doubts that from first to last, the science of medicine is purely the work of man. From a single beginning, recognizing only a few crude remedies, the science has grown to its present profundity and complexity. The laws of health have been discovered one after another; the peculiarities and the numerous forms of disease have been detected one by one; experience has thrown out of use false methods of healing, and has gradually swelled the number of remedial agencies; and thus in the last result, time and research have produced a marvellously complex system, a system perhaps never to be mastered in full by a single intellect.
Now it is claimed by the theory under consideration, that precisely the same explanation may be given of the origin and present existence of the Christian religion. The greai ness of the truths of Christianity are not disputed; the purity of its precepts and the nobility of the life to which it calls the human soul are acknowledged and revered by all. No one will deny that in its complement of doctrines and precepts it is immeasurably above the capacity of any one soul wholly to originate. But as with agriculture, with geology, with medicine, the inability of the individual is not to be regarded as an index of the inability of the race. Because no one individual soul could have wrought out the Christian scheme, it does not follow that the united experience of all human souls could not have done it. Accordingly, the advocates of the theory under notice, claim that human nature, in all its religious experience, has, of itself alone, developed every truth and every precept properly embraced in Christianity. God is acknowledged to be the author of this religion, only in the sense in which every one acknowledges him to be the author of agriculture, geology, of the science of medicine. That is to say, he gave man a religious and rational nature, planted in his soul all his spiritual cravings and intuitions, placed him in a world favorable to the culture of his highest powers. He is the author of Christianity only in the sense that he is the author of the faculties through which man has been enabled to manifest, and mature, and systematize the principles and precepts of the Christian religion.
Rationalism—it will be thus seen-is the opposite extreme from Calvinism, which so far from attributing the origin of Christianity to man, will hardly allow that he had any thing whatever to do with it. So far from teaching that this religion is the natural outgrowth of the human soul, the divine experience which this soul has matured ; Cavinism affirms that Christianity is in fact something inimical to the natural man. So far from being a result of his nature, it is not admitted to be even agreeable to his nature ; and we are assured, that before a man can become a true Christian, his nature must be altered his native desires must be taken away and a new set of faculties substituted in their place! By nature, man is depraved, wholly averse to true religion, and hence the first requirement of true religion is a new heart”—by which is meant a changed nature. God therefore is the author of Christianity in a sense which denies all coöperation or agency on the part of man. Human experience has nothing whatever to do with the origin of Christianity. In no sense is this religion a growth of human souls. It is not a development. It is made entire and at once, by the divine architect, and imposed at once and as a whole on men. The growth of the complex sciences, such as those pertaining to the natural history of the globe and the healing of disease, in no sense illustrates the origin of the Christian scheme. Of the science of astronomy, it would be proper to say, God made it through the faculties which he implanted in the mind of man. But so far from originating Christianity in this way,—so far from operating in and through the faculties of the human soul,—he created this religion directly against all the native faculties of the soul, and thus, in order to put man in harmony with the religion imposed upon him, requires of him a change of nature—a crucifixion of the desires and aspirations which, in their roots, came with his birth, and the substitution of a new class of aspirations and desires, to be miraculously acquired as an act of grace.
True to their respective leading principles, rationalism on the one hand denies that Christianity is, in any respect whatever, a special revelation from God; while on the other hand, Calvinism assumes it to be a special revelation in all respects. Rationalism denies the necessity and, in some of
its expounders, even the possibility of miracles; Calvinism makes everything miraculous-not excepting the daily life of the Christian man. Rationalism denies all inspiration, sometimes in form, sometimes in effect, by making it identical with the natural fervor or enthusiasm of the religious faculties. Calvinism not only makes inspiration a special means of revealing truth, but one which has no sort of dependence upon, or necessary connexion with, any native faculty of man. Rationalism looks upon the Bible as, in all respects, the work of man-as but a collection of histories, poems, personal narratives, parables and precepts, written in various ages, and by various minds-expressing in every particular, the infirmities of finite minds, no part of it being entitled to special authority or reverence. Calvinism regards not alone every doctrine and every fact and precept as a special communication from God, but assumes that every word and syllable, by means of which the contents of the Bible are articulately expressed, as dictated by the Holy Spirit; and hence that all parts of the Scriptures have the same kind and degree of authority in matters of faith and practice.
Such then are the two most widely opposed theories as to the origin of Christianity-rationalism on the one hand, which makes Christianity the natural and the necessary outgrowth of human souls; and Calvinism, which makes Christianity an artificial creation of God, arbitrarily imposed upon the soul, with whose natural faculties it is not in harmony. Now if the question, were, To which of these two theories do we give assent? we should unhesitatingly answer: To neither. The two theories to use a formulary recently invented—though contraries are not contradictories. The denial of the one does not necessarily affirm the other. We believe that a third theory, and one more satisfactory, is possible.
Our controversy-so far as what we have to say may be called a controversy-is with rationalism, rather than with its opposite. So far as regard is had to what we have included under the name of Calvinism, but little controversy is needed. Our emphatic dissent from most of the points named as Calvinistic will be understood as a matter of
The theory which proclaims itself as being against the nature of man, seems to us to condemn itself in the mere avowal. The notion that inspiration extends equally alike to every item of history, every local incident, and the eternal truths of religion, seems to deny to the Bible writers even a mediocrity of personal intelligence. Nor can any conceivable form of argument render even plausible the doctrine that Christianity is purely miraculous in all its relations alike to faith and to practice.
We presume that the great body of Christians called by their opponents “non-evangelical" consider rationalists as having borrowed from them, rather than they from rationalists, the doctrine that Christianity is a reasonable religion, that it is precisely adapted to the native religious wants of human souls, that it is in no essential respects an artificial system of dogmas and requirements arbitrarily imposed on man in violation of his nature. Universalists, Unitarians, and in some respects Swedenborgians, have taught as much as this for perhaps half a century before rationalism, technically so called, became at all conspicuous as an element of American theology. The doctrine that true religion is natural to man, and not foreign to his soul, is by no means the peculiarity of rationalistic theology.
The question then is this,-Does the asserted naturalness of religion—the particular in which rationalism, as we have seen, borrows from the party usually called “non-evangelical”-exclude the possibility of special revelation from God, of the authority of inspiration, and the reality of miracle ? Admitting religion to be natural to man, does it therefore follow that religion originates with him, the same as agriculture, geology, and the art of healing originate with him? Does it follow that God can be the author of religion only in the sense that he is the author of the religious faculties in man, of which faculties true religion is but the perfect expression ? Man being created as he was—endowed with the spiritual capabilities which he is acknowledged to possess—was the final development of true religion inevitable ? so much so, that any subsequent intervention of the Creator-intervention in the way of special information, illumination, or quickening—was rendered unnecessary ? Rationalism answers all these questions in the affirmative. And herein do we take issue with it. In carrying its affirmations to this extent, it seems to us guilty of assumptions,
which, even if not negatived by contrary proofs, do not themselves possibly admit of proof.
We are now prepared to state what seems to us a fundamental error in the rationalistic theory. This error is a neglect to distinguish the natural from the necessary. Because a particular result is natural, it does not follow that it must ensue. The phenomenon of a kernel of corn taking root in the ground, springing into the blade, and ripening into the full corn in the ear—this phenomenon every one understands to be perfectly natural. But it were folly to say that the phenomenon is necessary—that it must ensue; for in point of fact, where one kernel of corn actually manifests this natural phenomenon, many thousands are destined to a totally different result. A phenomenon is natural when it results from certain laws inhering in its subject; but the notion of necessity adds to these laws a certain complement of circumstances :—in the phenomenon supposed, it adds to the germinal laws of the seed, the circumstances of proper soil, moisture, light, and warmth. Now as the seed with all its laws and properties may exist without ever meeting with the circumstances as the existence of the seed with all its natural tendencies does by no means imply the presence of the circumstances, the folly of confounding the necessary with the natural—of reasoning that a result is inevitable because it is natural-must be sufficiently obvious.
Now this fallacious reasoning—this confounding of two essentially distinct ideas-is, it seems to us, involved in the rationalistic theory. The comprehensive and exhaustive proposition is this : True religion is natural to man, as much so as the growing blade with its full corn in the ear is the natural manifestation of the seed planted in the ground; and hence it is argued, that true religion is a necessary result-is an inevitable outgrowth of humanity, and so precluding all occasion for the external and special coöperation of the Deity. Now we do not simply admit, but strenuously insist, that true religion is a natural outgrowth of the human soul, and as a phenomenon, is so far perfectly analogous to that supposed of the growing corn. And we at least deem it possible, that the analogy between the two results holds in another particular ; in this, namely, that as in the case of the corn the naturalness of the result does