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The right use of Reason in Religion. That it is the right and the duty of all men to exercise their reason in inquiries concerning religion, is a truth so manifest, that it
be presumed there are none who will be disposed to call it in question.
Without reason there can be no religion; for in every step which we take in examining the evidences of revelation, in interpreting its meaning, or in assenting to its doctrines, the exercise of this faculty is indispensable.
When the evidences of Christianity are exhibited, an appeal is made to the reason of men for its truth; but all evidence and all argument would be perfectly futile, if reason were not permitted to judge of their force. This noble faculty was certainly given to man to be a guide in religion, as well as in other things. He possesses no other means by which he can form a judgment on any subject, or assent to any truth; and it would be no more absurd to talk of seeing without eyes, than of knowing any thing without It is therefore a great mistake to suppose, that religion forbids, or discourages the right use of reason. So far from this, she enjoins it as a duty of high moral obligation, and reproves those who neglect to judge for themselves what is right.
But it has frequently been said by the friends of revelation, that although reason is legitimately exercised in examining the evidences of revelation, and in determining the sense of the words by which it is conveyed; yet it is not within her province to sit in judgment on the doctrines contained in such a divine communication. This statement, though intended to guard against the abuse of reason, is not, in my opinion, altogether accurate. For it is manifest, that we can form no conception of a truth of any kind, without reason; and when we receive any thing as true, whatever may be the evidence on which it is founded, we must view the reception of it to be reasonable. Truth and reason are so intimately connected, that they can never, with propriety, be separated. Truth is the object, and reason the faculty by which it is apprehended; whatever be the nature of the truth, or of the evidence by which it is established. No doctrine can be a proper object of our faith, which it is not more reasonable to receive, than to reject. If a book, claiming to be a divine revelation, is found to contain doctrines which can in no way be re
conciled to right reason, it is a sure evidence that those claims have no solid foundation, and ought to be rejected. But that a revelation should contain doctrines of a mysterious and incomprehensible nature, and entirely different from all our previous conceptions, and, considered in themselves, improbable, is not repugnant to reason; on the contrary, judging from analogy, sound reason would lead us to expect such things in a revelation from God. Every thing which relates to this Infinite Being, must be to us, in some respect, incomprehensible. Every new truth must be different from all that is already known; and all the plans and works of God are very far above and beyond the conception of such minds as ours. Natural Religion has as great mysteries as any in revelation: and the created universe, as it exists, is as different from any plan which men would have conceived, as any of the truths contained in a revelation can be.
But it is reasonable to believe what by our senses we perceive to exist; and it is reasonable to believe whatever God declares to be true.
In receiving, therefore, the most myterious doctrines of revelation, the ultimate appeal is to reason. Not to determine whether she could have discovered these truths; not to declare, whether considered in themselves,