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The more myfterious doctrines of Christianity confidered.
WE are now to notice, as far as our subject re-
Our Lord commanded his apoftles "to go and "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." The part therefore which each of these divine persons have taken in the difpenfations of God to man, as well as their relation to each other, and their mutual connection, forms a peculiar and mysterious object in the Christian revelation. On the other hand, this revelation exhibits to us mankind as a fallen and corrupted race, whose first parents had violated the law of their Creator, and by the violation materially altered the condition, both of themselves and their posterity for the worse. It states further, that this unhappy change gave occafion for that interpofition of God,
a Mat. xxviii. 18.
Gen. iii. Rom. v. 1 Cor. xv.
which the scriptures relate to have taken place for the redemption of man. Thus the circumftances of this change in the original condition of mankind, as well as the nature and extent of the remedy provided for it, forms another most interesting and important part of the gospel fyftem.
All thefe doctrines relate to fubjects which evidently lie beyond the penetration of human reason, and the discoveries of human experience; to judge about them clearly, and to understand them fully, we must be supposed accurately acquainted with the entire nature of God, and of his attributes, and the mode of conduct which these attributes would lead him to adopt towards the human race, connected as it may be with his system of government over all intellectual beings. We must also be fuppofed capable of tracing the effects of the divine conduct on mankind, from the creation of the world till its clofe, and estimating whether on the whole there did not refult from the feries of difpenfations, recorded in the fcriptures, the greatest quantity of virtue and happiness which it was poffible to produce, confiftently with the nature of man as a moral agent, and the views of God as the moral governor of the world. Now, who does not at the first glance fee that any one human being-nay, all human beings united, would be wholly incompetent to judge of these things, if left to their limited capacities and limited experience, without any instruction from divine wifdom?
dom? Who does not fee that the nature of these fubjects is fuch, that with regard to them men must be content to proceed as mere learners, convinced that they cannot discover the system of measures which God has adopted, or penetrate into the motives which determine his conduct, further than he has thought fit to disclose them? The business of reason then, in this cafe, is plainly confined to two points. ft. To be fully affured of the divine authority of those who claim the character of meffengers fent from God to inftru&t men in these mysterious fubjects; and next, to take care that their inftructions are rightly understood. We are however under no obligation to attend at all to doctrines on fuch fubjects, as men could know nothing of but by revelation, till we have been satisfied that the men who advance these doctrines have been enlightened by the Divinity; antecedent therefore to any enquiry into their doctrines, we have a right to demand from them fuch external proofs of a divine authority as we are competent judges of. If convincing proofs are fupplied, we must be fatisfied that the general fyftem of doctrines thus attefted, is undoubtedly of divine original; we shall therefore proceed to examine its parts, and interpret its peculiar tenets with caution and humility, admitting as a rule of interpretation, that nothing directly contradictory to the principles of intuitive or demonftrative certainty can be true, and therefore, that if the revelation is interpreted fo as to carry such a sense, it must have been mifinterS 2 preted,
preted. But these questions cannot arife till the authority of the revelation has been previously established by external proofs; and therefore (as it seems to me) a minute difcuffion of them is not neceffary in a work defigned to weigh the direct proofs, and examine the general authority of the gofpel of Chrift. The question I purpose to difcufs is fimply this were the firft teachers of Christianity deluded enthusiasts in believing themselves divinely inspired? They appeal to miracles and prophecies, as proofs of a divine interpofition; were they in their belief of these facts enthufiafts? if not, neither were they enthusiasts in their belief of thofe doctrines, in proof of which they appeal to these facts, and therefore all thefe doctrines, rightly interpreted, are unquestionably true.
The existence of doctrines in Chriftianity, which we do not fully comprehend, affords no prefumption of their having originated in the delufions of fanaticifm; when we confider that they relate to fubjects which have, in every age, exercised the penetration of the most acute and enlightened reafoners, without their having been able to form any clear and certain fyftem relating to them, or to difpel that obfcurity, which feems from their very nature to rest upon them. Thus the existence of natural and moral evil, is a fact which experience too fully teftifies; the Deist feels it as strongly as the Christian, and it forms a difficulty, a mystery, on the principles of natural religion, of which no human fagacity has yet been able
able to find an adequate folution. The difficulty of reconciling the omnifcience of God with the free agency of man, is another fubject which has perplexed the fpeculative enquirer. The unequal distribution of all natural and moral advantages amongst men, whether we confider nations or individuals, is not lefs difficult to account for on the principles of natural religion. We may afk a variety of queftions to which the Deift can give no fatisfactory anfwer. Why does that Being, who is the Creator and Lord of all alike, permit fome nations to remain barbarous, poor, enslaved, while others are enlightened, rich and free? why are fome individuals wife, ftrong, healthy, opulent, profperous; others ignorant, feeble, diseased, dependent, unfortunate? and this without any regular proportion being observed, to all appearance at least, between each man's external advantages and his moral merit. These, and a variety of other fimilar difficulties occur, which natural religion does not folve; yet we admit the principles of natural religion, because they are founded on direct proofs, which are not refuted by our inability to comprehend the entire fubject in its minuter detail. Ignorance on fuch a fubject only fhews that our faculties are inadequate to its full extent, but is no refutation of what has been pofitively proved.
Of the doubts and difficulties which obfcure natu ral religion many remain undetermined and unexplained, even by revelation. Some perhaps, because it