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confidence and veneration? For is it not clearer than the day, that we discover in ourselves the indelible traces of our excellence ; and is it not equally clear, that we experience every moment the sad realities of our deplorable condition? And does not, then, this internal chaos, this moral confusion, proclaim with a voice mighty and irresistible, the truth of those two states, to which revelation bears testimony ?
12. That which hinders men from believing that they may be united to God, is the conviction of their depraved state. But if they are sincere in this conviction, let them follow out the fact to its bearings as I have; and let them acknowledge that the effect of this degradation is, to render us incapable of judging rightly, whether God can make us fit to enjoy him or not. For I would like to know where this avowedly, weak and degraded creature acquired the power of gauging the divine compassions, and limiting them according to his own fancy. Man knows so little of what God is, that he does not know what he is himself; and yet, while unable to judge of his own real state, he presumes to affirm, that God cannot fit him for communion with him. But I would ask, Is not the very thing which God requires of him this, that he should know and love him? And why, then, since he is naturally capable of knowing and loving, should he doubt the power of God to make himself the object of this knowledge and love. For it is unquestionable that he knows, at least, that he is, and that he loves something Then, if in the darkness in which he is, he yet discerns something, and if he finds amidst earthly things some object of love; why if God should impart some rays of his own essence, should he not be capable of knowing him and of loving him, as he is discovered in that mode in which he has been pleased to reveal himself.
There is then an unjustifiable presumption in these reasonings. Though they appear to be founded in hu mility, yet that humility is neither sincere nor reasonable; but as it leads us to acknowledge, that as we do not thoroughly know what we are ourselves, we can only learn it from God.
THE DUE SUBORDINATION AND USE OF REASON.
The highest attainment of reason, is to know that there is an infinity of knowledge beyond its limits. It must be sadly weak if it has not dicovered this. We ought to know where we should doubt, where we should be confident, and where we should submit. He who knows not this does not comprehend the true power of reasoning. There are men who fail severally on each of these points. Some from ignorance of what is demonstration, assume every thing to be demonstrable; others not knowing where it becomes them to submit silently, doubt of every thing; and others again, unconscious of the right field for the exercise of judgment, submit blindly to all,
2. If we subject every thing to reason, our religion would have nothing in it mysterious and supernatural, If we violate the principles of reason, our religion would be absurd and contemptible.
Reason, says St. Augustine, would never submit, if it were not in its nature to judge, that there are sions when it ought to submit. It is right, then, that reason should yield when it it is conscious that it ought, and that it should not yield when it judges deliberately that it ought not, But we must guard here against self-deceit,
3. Piety differs from superstition. Superstition is the death of piety. The heretics reproach us with this superstitious submission of the understanding. We should deserve their reproach, if we required this surrender in things which do not require it rightly. Noth ing is more consistent with reason, than the repression of reasoning in matters of faith. Nothing more conrary to reason than the pression of reasoning in mat
ers which are not of faith. To exclude reasoning altogether, or to take no other guide, are equally dangerous extremes.
4. Faith affirms many things, respecting which the senses are silent; but nothing that they deny. It is always superior, but never opposed to their testimony.
5. Some men say, If I had seen a miracle, I should have been converted. But they would not so speak if they really understood conversion. They imagine that conversion consists in the recognition of a God; and that to adore him, is but to offer him certain addresses, much resembling those which the pagans made to their idols. True conversion, is to feel our nothingness before that Sovereign Being whom we have so often offended; and who might, at any moment justly destroy us. It is to acknowledge, that without Him we can do nothing, and that we have deserved nothing but his wrath. It consists in the conviction, that between God and us, there is an invincible enmity; and that, without a Mediator, there can be no communion between us.
6. Do not wonder to see some unsophisticated people believe without reasoning. God gives them the love of his righteousness, and the abhorence of themselves. He inclines their heart to believe. We should never believe with a living and influential faith, if God did not incline the heart; but we do so as soon as he inclines it. This David felt, when he said, Incline
my heart, O Lord, unto thy testimonies. 7. If any believe truly, without having examined the evidence of religion, it is, that they have received within, a holy disposition, and that they find the averments of our religion conformed to it. They feel that God has made them. They wish but to love him, and to hate only themselves. They feel that they are without strength; that they are unable to go to God, and that unless he comes to them, they can have no communication with him. And then they learn from our religion, that they should love only God, and hate only themselves, but that being utterly corrupt, and alienated from God, God became man that he might unite himself to us. Nothing more is wanting to convince men, who have this principle of piety in their hearts, and who know also both their duty and their weakness.
8. Those whom we see to be Christians, without the inspection of the prophecies and other evidences, are found equally good judges of the religion itself, as others who have this knowledge. They judge by the heart, as others do by the understanding. God himself has inclined their hearts to believe, and hence they are effectively persuaded.
I grant that a Christian who thus believes without examining evidence, would probably not have the means of convincing an infidel, who could put his own case strongly. But those who know well the evidence for Christianity, can prove, without difficulty, that this belief is truly inspired of God, though the man is not able to prove it in himself.
TIF CHARACTER OF A MAN WHO IS WEARIED WITH SEEKING
GOD BY REASON ONLY, AND WHO BEGINS TO READ THE
When I look at the blindness and misery of man,
and at those appailing contrarieties which are apparent in his nature; and when I survey the universe all silent, and man without instruction, left alone, and, as it were, a lost wanderer in this corner of creation, without knowing who placed him here, what he came to do, or what becomes of him at death, I am alarmed as a man is, who has been carried during his sleep to a desolate and gloomy island, and who has awaked, and discovered that he knows not where he is, and that he has no means of escape. I wonder how any one can avoid despair, at the consideration of this wretched state. I see others around me having the same nature: I ask them if they know more on this subject than I ;
and they answer, no. And I see that these wretched wanderers, like myself, having looked around them, and discovered certain pleasurable objects, had given themselves up to them without reserve. For myself, I cannot rest contented with such pleasures; I cannot find repose in this society of similar beings, wretched and powerless as I am myself. I see that they cannot help me to die. I must die alone.
It becomes me then to act as if I were alone. Now, if I were alone here, I should not build mansions. I should not entangle myself with tumultuous cares. I should not court the favor of any, but I should strive to the utmost to discover what is truth. With this disposition, and considering what strong probability there is, that other things exist beside those which I see; I have inquired if that God of whom all the world speaks, has not given us some traces of himself. I look around, and see nothing but darkness on every side. All that nature presents to me, only suggests cause for doubt and distrust. If I saw nothing in nature that intimated a divinity, I would determine not to believe any thing concerning him. If I saw every where the traces of a deity, I would cherish at once the peaceful repose of faith; but seeing too much evidence to justify a deninl, and too little to minister assurance, I am in a pitiable state, in which I have wished an hundred times, that if a God sustains nature, she might declare it unequivocally; and that if the intimations she gives are false, they may be entirely suppressed; that nature would speak conclusively, or not at all, so that I might know distinctly which course to take. Instead of this, in my present state, ignorant of what I am, and of what I ought to do: I know neither my condition nor my duty. My heart yearns to know what is the real good, in order to follow it. And, for this, I would count no sacrifice too dear.
I see many religious systems, in different parts and at different periods of the world. But I am not satisfied, either with the morality which they teach, nor the proofs on which they rest. On this ground, I must