Billeder på siden

mental conviction of something nobler. Faith is equally opposed to su perstition; since it rests on the understanding of truth, whilst superstition must have something to please the sight: religion addresses the conscience and reason, superstition addresses the senses: accordingly when men lost faith, or clear conviction of an invisible God, they made a sensible image like to corruptible man, and birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things. (Romans i.)

In like manner, when men forget to regard mentally the truths of Christianity, they have pictures and relics: this is superstition or sight, in opposition to understanding and principle, which say-" whom having not seen, we love." So that faith is opposed to passion, sense, and superstition; in other words, it is enlightened reason. It looks at the things which are not seen by the bodily eye; but which are appreciated by the eye of faith, or understanding. That such is its meaning, may further be made obvious by the following instance, in which the Redeemer employs faith and understanding in reference to the very same thing: thus proving that the terms mean the same. "Then said Jesus unto them, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, it is because we have taken no bread. Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of LITTLE FAITH; -do ye not yet UNDERSTAND?-How is it that ye do not UNDERSTAND that I spake it not to you concerning bread. Then UNDERSTOOD they how he bade them beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Scribes." -(Matt. xvi. 6-12.)

By "faith" then, our Lord meant perception, insight or understanding of his spiritual meaning. Their little faith, was little understanding:slowness of heart or judgment to perceive the truth: hence, in another place we read, "fools and slow of heart to believe," (Luke xxiv. 25.) wherein our Lord reproaches the dulness of his disciples, in not seeing into the meaning and application of prophecy. "Then opened he their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures," in other words, that he might increase their faith. When Peter was sinking, Jesus 66 stretched forth his hand and said, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ?"-(Matt. 14, 31.) How is it thou understandest not who I am; and that, therefore, there is no reason to fear?

This view of faith, as intelligent insight or perception of the truth is incidentally illustrated if not confirmed, by no less a master in Israel than William Tyndale, one of the early English reformers; who speaking of that passage, John xvi. 9.-The Comforter shall convict the world "of sin because they believe not on me," observes "he shall rebuke the world for lack of true judgment, and discretion to judge." And this writer proceeds on this principle to advocate the duty of seeing into the grounds and nature of spiritual religion, as the only defence against the bondage of forms, and the blindness of overlooking the real claims of the Saviour. "Wherefore beloved reader, inasmuch as the Holy Ghost rebuketh the world for lack of judgment; and inasmuch also as their ignorance is without excuse before whose faces enough is set to judge by, if they would open their eyes to see, and not captivate their understanding to believe lies and inasmuch as the spiritual judgeth all things-wherefore it is time to awake and see every man with his own eyes." But a


greater authority thus condemns the Jews-"their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and understand, and be converted." -(Matt. xiii. 15.)

Whenever persons misunderstood the emblems of this great teacher, and took them for a reality,—as the woman of Samaria respecting the water he should give ;-(John iv. 15.) the disciples respecting the meat he had which they knew not of-(John iv. 32.) respecting the leaven of the Pharisees-(Matt. xvi. 6.) the Jews, respecting the giving of his flesh to eat (John vi. 52.) whenever such mistakes occurred, there was little faith; that is, little understanding. So now, when priests give his flesh to eat, and say we must have it in their wafer or bread; or when they would have us born again of water at the font; IT IS NOT FAITH, BUT STUPIDITY THEY REQUIRE. They wish us to enact over again, the littleness of faith, or want of insight which the Saviour condemned.

Faith then, in the gospel, means reason or understanding; it is a name for wisdom, or the exercise of wisdom; but the Church, i. e. priests, have degraded faith into folly, that we may be foolish enough to have faith in them: which would indeed be the height of folly.

Let it therefore be stored up as a maxim of the highest consequence, that Christian faith is enlightened conviction; that to believe, is to see into and recognise a truth: whilst that spurious faith advocated as the buttress of superstition, is the blind leading the blind-into a ditch.

To believe in Jesus Christ, is to understand what he is and what he came for, and to accept him in that capacity.

We must ourselves judge and appreciate what he says, that we may understand the forcibleness of right words, and learn the meaning of that saying," HE SPAKE AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY, and not as the scribes."

He was no timid second-hand teacher, appealing to this and that Rabbi; the only earthly Rabbi he appealed to, was man's conscience; and the authority he spoke with, was not the dictation of one aspiring to lord it over his fellows; but the authority of self-witnessing truths, that were therefore authoritative because they awakened, and commended themselves to, man's deepest thoughts and loftiest desires.

His authority, was not the imposition of a tyrant, but the persuasiveness of truth, WHICH OF HIS MAXIMS WILL ANY ONE IMPUGN? He spake of what he knew of the divine nature, as he knew that; of human nature, as he knew what was in man.


But he recognized human reason as the point of appeal ;—" why even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?" (Luke xii. 57.) That he could rightly exercise mastery, is not what we here assert, least of all, what we deny at present we consider only the relation he did assume persuasion, not force.

Indeed, this is true of all the proceedings of the Divine Being in his moral government; he rules by moral means: that is, by motives, reasons, or persuasion: force is employed when probation is ended and that force is not to secure obedience, but to punish disobedience. God's service, is a reasonable one; and whether we interpret this, as a service in reason due, or by reason rendered, the argument or principle is the same; since either way, it has to do with conviction, insight or faith.

Consistently with this, Christianity comes to enlighten; to rule by teaching; practically, this religion has two elements, faith on our part ;— authority on the part of the object, founder, or foundation of Christianity. But this faith in us, is not blindness; and authority in Him is not imperiousness: OUR FAITH IS OUR REASON, AND HIS AUTHORITY IS REASONABLENESS. We are to believe him because he is the truth. As we have long ago expressed it-"Christianity requires us to believe what is reasonable, to love what is lovely, and to do what is right: and the reasonableness, the loveliness and rectitude, are the grounds of our obligation; as well as the appropriate motives for compliance." In other words, it therefore speaks with authority, because it is just and true. That this as exhibited in the Saviour, is THE ONLY AUTHORITY, as opposed to man's usurpation, belongs to our second department.

From these observations it is plain, that we are not acting contrary to the spirit of this religion, when by the strictest methods of reasoning we enquire into its grounds and nature.

Some indeed (to save their own systems it may be) join with the sceptic in denying the reasonableness of Christianity, by an outcry against what they call CARNAL REASON. But it will presently appear, that this phrase is as little understood, as the terms faith and authority.

There are three gradations of character enumerated in the Epistles :the natural man, the carnal man, and the spiritual man.

Without here entering into those peculiarities of doctrine founded on these distinctions, we shall give the certain and obvious differences intended by these terms; so far as they relate to the human intellect: the moral dispositions or character involved in or resulting from them, we leave out of the present enquiry.


These terms may be understood by a slight examination of the first three chapters in the first Epistle to the Corinthians. The primary object of which is to shew the futility of philosophy apart from revelation, in reference to the divine will. That men of themselves, could not attain to a knowledge of God: and hence those agents were employed, who were not indebted to merely natural means; not the wise or philosophers; but those learned in another school. All Christian philosophy is summed up in Christ, "who of God is made unto us wisdom." Therefore, the apostle came not with enticing words of man's wisdom;" but "in the demonstration of the spirit and with power," in divine teaching supernaturally imparted. Comparing human attainments with this wisdom of God, he enquires, "where is the wise, where is the Scribe, where is the disputer of this world?" its wisdom is made or manifested to be foolishness; being eclipsed by the appearance of the true luminary. All these abortive efforts, were the work of natural or unaided reason: which has always failed on religious questions: "the world by (its own) wisdom knew not God;" he must declare himself: " as it is written, eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." The provisions of mercy in the gospel were mysteries, or divine secrets, which the princes and philosophers of this world knew not: "but God hath revealed them to us by his spirit:" nor were there any other means of learning, since as a man knoweth not the secrets of his fellow things of God knoweth no one but the spirit of God."

men, so


Therefore religious knowledge is unattainable by nature; "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God;" they are received only by the spiritual man, that is, man under divine guidance.

Considered intellectually then, he is the natural man, who has no other learning than human wisdom; whilst the spiritual man is he who is guided by the instructions of God's spirit, whether as direct inspiration to the Apostles or as their record of the spirit's teaching.

The carnal man is between these two: a mixture of the two characters; he degrades spiritual truth from God, by the introduction of human elements. "I could not speak unto you as spiritual," as those who have fully estimated the nature of the gospel; "but as unto carnal, even as babes in Christ,"-" For while one saith I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal," "ye walk as men" or after men as your pattern; establishing human theories, creeds, rites, or standards.

THIS THEN IS CARNAL REASON, namely, to settle down into any human forms, doctrines or authorities, and oppose the spiritual-mindedness that would search the Scriptures and test all things by the mind of God contained in his word, and to be examined by human reason.

The Bereans were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they searched the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.(Acts xvii. 11.) A spirit of enquiry and examination then, instead of being opposed is required and commended by Christianity: it is by "the word of Christ dwelling in us richly," that we are "filled with the knowledge of all wisdom and spiritual understanding."

To oppose this by any efforts or epithets, is pride and carnality;-the addition of a human bondage. Wherefore "let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his carnal mind; and not holding the head Jesus Christ," but seeking to rule "after the commandments of men." (Coloss. ii. 18, 19.)

This carnal mindedness is the same thing as littleness of faith, or stupidity and misapprehension, in taking external forms for spiritual realities; laying stress upon what (if not a metaphor metamorphosed into an actual verity,) is at least only extrinsic, accidental, or superadded to the Christian system.

It is not tenderness and reverence for God's truth, that leads men to decry reason in religion, (for that truth is both reasonable in itself and demands the strictest investigation) but it is tenderness for forms, systems and human authorities; it is a want of faith or insight into the nature of the gospel, and adopting the carnal cry of babes, "I am for Paul, or I am for Apollos."

The natural man intellectually considered, walks in the sparks that he or others have kindled, his philosophy is independent of the Bible; the spiritual man is guided by the Bible only; the carnal man, improves upon the Bible: the first is human philosophy, the second divine philosophy, the third an absurd and superstitious, spoiling of both, by the compromise of an unnatural alliance.

They therefore who investigate the Scriptures, earnest to discover their truth and meaning, are not exposed justly to the charge of relying on carnal reason; on the contrary, they seek after divine reason, whether God the Lord hath spoken, and what he intends to teach: and as they

want faith themselves, and seek to destroy faith in others, who require a blindfold submission to priestly conjurings; so they are carnally-minded, who wishing us to rest in the dogmas of men, discourage enquiry into the word of God.

From whatever point of view then Christianity be considered, it is plainly offered to the world, as a reasonable religion in itself, and consequently cherishing and requiring the strictest investigation: the faith it demands, is not blindness but insight; the authority it exhibits is not tyranny but reason; its force is evidence; and the carnal reason it condemns is not the exercise of reason upon the Bible, but the addition of fancies and human authority to the Bible: the natural reason it sets aside is not the aim to understand, but an abortive attempt to do without the Bible-to make a Jacob's ladder out of the cobwebs of the brain : the spiritually-minded (intellectually regarded) are not those who shut their eyes, but those who employ them to read and understand-" what the spirit saith unto the churches." "And when he had called the people unto him, HE said, hearken unto me EVERY ONE of you, AND UNDERSTAND." (Mark vii. 14.)

The inherent truthfulness of Christ's religion being thus recognized, we learn that to teach it, is to prove it: for indeed nothing else can prove Christianity but itself; miracles and historical evidences may be useful auxiliaries or introductions; but like the men of Samaria, we must hear for ourselves; and when we find his words measuring the capacities and desires of our entire nature-filling up all the vacancies of the human soul; then we feel the moral demonstration, and acknowledge that "he speaks as one having authority."

This method of proof, namely considering what Christianity really is; whether there be anything in the system repugnant or agreeable to the loftiest reason; in a word, whether it deserve our reception;-is of peculiar value and importance. First, it is important because in general and especially at present, the rejecter of the gospel deals more with the system itself (or what he mistakes as such) than with any historical questions: therefore concluding that it is not worth enquiring about, he will not be very extensive or accurate in historical investigation. This is our first reason for trying the gospel on its own merits.

And secondly, this is plainly the test to which Christianity itself appeals; as we have now endeavoured to prove; whilst to believe on any other ground alone, would not be honouring or receiving Christianity, so much as foreign recommendations.

Whilst thirdly, this method is peculiarly suited to the masses of men, who having little learning or leisure, cannot travel over centuries; but require a plain tale that speaks for itself. It is to these that the gospel especially appeals, and therefore it is so constructed as to require no large apparatus of learning: we have not to travel back eighteen hundred years; nor to fetch Christ up from the dead, or down from heaven; but "it is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, even the word of faith which we preach"-the Bible which all may possess; and whose principles. need but be examined to commend the truth to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

It is this method of examination that we shall chiefly adopt in the first

« ForrigeFortsæt »