Page images
PDF
EPUB

is only a power bestowed on man, of live--and superadd to this, the expecomparing things, and propositions rience of all angels and all other concerning things, and of deducing orders of intelligences hereafter to propositions from them. It is the be made, accessible to faith, how faculty of discriminating one name, inconceivably immense the disproor thing, or attribute, from another, portion between reason and faith, as and of forming just conceptions of it. the means of enlarging the capacity It is not, then, a creative power. It and of storing the mind of man with cannot make something out of nothing. I true knowledge! In one word, then, It is to the soul what the eye is to the from an invincible necessity of nature, body. It is not light, but the power we are indebted to faith for millions of perceiving and using it. And as of ideas, for one obtained by our own the eye without light, so reason with- personal sensations, observations, or out tradition or revelation, would be reflections. useless to man in all the great points How preposterous, then, was it for which the inductive and true philo- the learned and ingenious author of sophy of nature and of fact humbly the “Treatise on Human Natnre,” to acknowledges she cannot teach. She elaborate an essay to prove that no modestly avows her inability to unfold, man could rationally believe the testior even to ascertain the origin, nature, mony of any number of persons or end of any thing. Her verdict in affirming a supernatural fact, because, the case before us is, that he who as he imagined, their testimony was presumes to walk by the light of contrary to universal experience ! reason in these great matters is not The eloquent author of the History more eminently sane than he who of England seems not to have perassumes to walk by his eyes in the ceived the delusion he was imposing midst of utter darkness.

on himself, in making his own indiBut the ennobling faculty of man vidual experience, or that of a few is faith. This puts him in possession others, equal to that of all mankind of the experience of all other men by in all ages of the world, a ten thousand believing their testimony. Instinct, millionth part of which he, nor no sense, and reason, however enlarged other person, ever heard or knew ! in their operations, are confined to a No man ever heard universal expesingle individual of the race; and that rience, consequently no man could within a very narrow circle, a mere believe it. On such a splendid atom of creation, and but for a sophism, on such a magnificent asmoment of time ; while faith encom- sumption, however, is founded the passes the area of universal expe- capacious temple of French, English, rience, and appropriates to its posses German, and American infidelity. sion the acquisitions of all men in all While yet we have our definitions ages of time,

of instinct, sense, reason, and faith Human knowledge, prophecy so before us, and this ingenious class of called, consists of but two chapters. doubting philosophers in our eye, we Our own individual experience fur- | must enter another demur to the nishes the one, and faith the other. sanity of their intellects, or of their Faith, therefore, is to instinct, sense, logic. We have seen that instinct is and reason, as the experience of all a divine and infallible rule of life mankind is to that of a single indivi- given to the mere animal creation dual-the experience of a thousand and, indeed, to the vegetable also, millions to one. And were we to (as might be demonstrated were this add to the experience of all living the proper place), for the purpose of men that of all who have lived and guiding the actions of those creatures died, or that of all who shall hereafter l in benevolent subordination to the

SIEN

end of their being. Now, of this evident than that every human being endowment man is of all creatures is by an insuperable necessity comthe most destitute ; therefore, if he pelled to make the very first step in have not an infallible rule somewhere life, intellectual and moral, if not else, he is more slighted than any physical, by faith? Must an infant other creature : nay, he is the only wait the impulses of instinct or the creature wholly neglected by his decisions of reason for instruction in Creator, in the most important, too, what to choose, or what to refuse, in of all communicated endowments. the nursery or infant school ? Or But he has not this infallible rule in must it depend on its own observation, his five senses-he has it not in his experience, and reason ; or upon oral powers of reasoning ; and unless he tradition, for light upon food, and have it in his faith in divine testimony medicine, and poison ? Must it ex

-in a revelation internal and external, periment with the asp, the adder, the he is an anomaly in creation--the basilisk, the fire, the flood, the innusolitary exception to a law which, merable physical dangers around it, but for him, would have been uni- or implicitly believe its nurse, and versal. But what makes this hypo- walk by faith in her traditions ? thesis still more extravagantly absurd When it enters the infant school, is the fact, that, of all sublunary must it prove by reason, or receive creatures, man is the favorite of his upon testimony, the names and figures Maker--the head and “ lord of the of all the vowels and consonants of fowl and the brute.” Now to have the alphabet ? Can it by reason or granted the meanest insect a perfect instinct learn any grammar, speak rule of life ; to have remembered any language, or make one step in every other creature, and forgotten human science or literature ? It is only man, in a point the most vital just as true in nature as in religion, to his enjoyment of himself and of the that he that believeth not shall be universe, is an assumption, a result destroyed. There is no salvation to more incredible and marvellous than the infant man from natural evils— any other assumption on the pages of from ignorance, vice, and misery, any universal history. This is, indeed, more than to the adult sinner, from to swallow the camel while straining guilt and ruin, but by faith in tradiat a gnat.

tion, oral or written. The voice of Another assumption of this specu- nature and of the gospel speak the lative philosophy, another point deeply same language—“He that believeth affecting the pretensions of revelation, shall not perish.” Man, then, is so and the most ancient and veritable constituted that he must walk by faith traditions of the infancy of time, and if he walk at all. He must do this of nations, is equally at fault with the long before his reason has commenced instances now given, and demands a | its career of examination. Now, to special notice. It objects to a system affirm that reason is a better guide of religion and morals founded upon than faith, even in the incipient and faith rather than upon philosophy, as moulding period of his being, while not in harmony with human nature, his mind is assuming a character, on account of its liabilities to decep- and being fashioned for future life. tion in all matters depending upon To do this on a model, too, that for human testimony. It dogmatically ever gives to his ears an ascendancy affirms that man is more liable to be over sense and reason, as the channel deceived by faith than by reason. of light and knowledge, unless he

This is a direct assault upon nature, intended that faith should always and consequently upon the Author of have the superiority in guiding the it. For what can be much more actions of men, is, in fact, to interpose

an insuperable obstacle to his own tradition and divine revelation ; bordesigns, and to defeat himself in any rowing, instead of originating and after measure to restore him to reason, demonstrating all its fundamental from aberrations supposed to be at- | principles ? tendant on the exercise of faith as an If our mode of examining pretensions incompetent rule of moral action. be fair and logical, as we humbly Man, however, reason as we may, is conceive it is, does it not appear by a by an insuperable necessity compelled liberal induction of witnesses from to make the first step in physical, the best Pagan schools, that it has intellectual, and moral life, by faith never taught, with the clearness and in tradition ; and well would it have fulness of persuasion, nor with the been for immense multitudes had they authority of law or demonstration, continued to walk by faith in the oral the true doctrine of man's origin, traditions of those moral instructors nature, relations, obligations, and to whom God did, in the first ages of destiny? And from a careful conthe world, confide the temporal and sideration of all our powers of acquireternal destiny of mankind.

ing knowledge, is it not equally Lest, however, it should seem as if evident that he is not furnished with faith and reason were rival claimants the power of ascertaining any one of for the absolute government of man, these essential points, without the aid of and, like other aspirants, were seek- a light above that of reason and nature? ing to rise, each upon the ruin of his And may I not further appeal to competitor, to this high office, the your good sense, whether we could province of reason should be distinctly have instituted and pursued a fairer noted and understood. Permit me, or more honorable course than to then, to say, in behalf of reason, that state the pretensions and claims of she assumes to be only a minister to moral philosophy in her own terms, faith, as she is to religion and mo- as used by her greatest and most aprality. She examines the testimony, proved masters—Grecian, Roman, and decides upon its pretensions. In and English ; and then inquire singly this sense, intellect and reason are as of all her schools and renowned teachnecessary to faith as they are to moral ers, whether in their own experience, excellence; for a creature destitute and in their candid concessions and of reason is alike incapable of faith, acknowledgments, philosophy, in life morality, and religion. Reason, then, and death, has redeemed her pledges, in one word, examines the tradition fulfilled her promises, and sustained and the testimony, whether it be that the expectations of her friends and of our five senses, our memory, our admirers ? consciousness, or that of other persons; When hard pressed on these points, faith receives that testimony, and observing that she herself relied more common sense walks by it.

on tradition than on her own resources, From the definitions, facts, and fastening her hopes more on the basis inferences now before us, may we not, of what was handed down to her by gentlemen, conclude that if the physi- the ancients, than upon her own cal sciences natural philosophy in discoveries and reasonings, became it all its branches-be true science, be- not expedient that we also should cause all founded on their own facts, turn our thoughts to tradition, exobservations, and inductions—that amine its history, and canvass its science usually called moral philoso- pretensions, so far at least as to inphy is not a true science, because stitute a comparison between it and not founded on its own facts, ob- philosophy on the points in discussion ? servations, and inductions, but on Having thus placed those two great assumptions and plagiarisms from sources in contrast and comparison,

and finding on the side of tradition, ority of that most ennobling of all as defined by us, incontestible and the endowments of man, whether we decided advantages, incomparably consider the immense compass, the superior claims and pretensions, what infinite variety of its acquisitions, or inore natural and conclusive to ex- that high certainty and assurance to amine the human constitution, with which it often rises, and to which we special reference to these two ; and may attain, on all essential points, if possible, to ascertain whether the when accompanied with that candor Creator intended man to walk byl and inquisitiveness indispensable to hypothetical philosophy or authentic the detection of truth, in all matters tradition ? Such, then, has been our / of vital interest to man ? method ; and what now, on summing My object now is gained, even up the whole, are the legitimate re- although I may not have carried sults and conclusions ?

conviction to every heart. The sciDoes it not appear that moralence of human happines is now before philosophy never removed any doubts us ; and if I have not shown where except those which she had created ? it may be learned, I have certainly Like the spear of Achilles, she healed shown where it never has been, and only the wounds which she herself where it never can be learned. bad inflicted. That it cast not a And may I now be permitted to single ray of light upon a single add, that the study of these five cardinal point in the whole science of points opens to the human mind the happiness? That it failed in all the purest, sweetest, and most copious three great lines of the Ionic, Italic, fountains of delight. They connect and Eleatic orders, and most essen- themselves with the whole universe tially failed, even in the best branches of God, and place it all under tribute of the Ionic school, even in the hands to our happiness. of the great masters-Socrates, Plato, With the telescope of faith to our Aristotle, Zeno, and Epicurus ? eye, looking back to our origin beyond

Nay, does it not appear that the the Solar System, beyond all the age of doubting was the era of philo- systems of the heavens, we descry sophy ?—that men never began to the archetype of our being in the start hypotheses till they had lost remote and unfathomable depths of their way ?--that mankind walked the bosom and mysterious nature of safely by the light of tradition from that divine and transcendant Being, a divine origin for many years before whose temple is in the Universe, and philosophy was born ?-that those whose days are all the ages of Eternitty. ancient traditions were kept pure for While man stands upon this earth thousands of years in one great line and breathes this material breath of of the human race; but were finally | life, and sees and feels much in his corrupted by Priests, and disguised outward frame in common with the by Poets, and thus became the basis beasts that perish, he feels within of the Chaldean, Indian, Phenician, | himself an unearthly principle-an Egyptian, Persian, Grecian, and inward man—a heaven-descended Roman philosophy ?

mind--a nature more than ethereal And is it not most of all evident, —a spirit ever panting, thirsty, longthat man is not constituted by his ing after the affinity of his Father's Creator to be led by sense, instinct, spirit, whence, as a spark of intellior reason ; but by faith in infallible gence, it was stricken off, and made tradition, in all these points of vital to illumine its little mansion in the importance in the philosophy of bliss; vast temple of Creation and that such arrangment is in good The intellectual nature vouchsafed keeping with the pre-eminent superi- I to man communes with the Supreme

[ocr errors]

Intelligence in all his various and of the systems of universal nature. boundless works ; and such is its There, in the midst of kindred spirits love of new ideas, of new conceptions of a celestial mould, of a divine temof the almighty source of its being per-the mighty intellects the reand bliss, that if it could only imagine fined and cultivated genii of the skies, any fixed summit of its attainments, the true nobility of creation--he will even in the heavens, beyond which it converse, and in the seraphic pleacould add no new discoveries, that sures of a taste and an imagination summit would be the boundary of its of which all terrestrial scenes are career of glory and of bliss ; and inadequate types, he will view the repining, as did the Grecian Chief, bright and more perfect displays of that no new worlds were yet to be creative power, wisdom, and goodness conquered, heaven itself would cease in the palace of the universe; in that to be the place of infinite delight, the holiest of all, where beauty and loveultimate and eternal home of man. liness in their most divine forms,

The relations of man are, as a unseen by mortal eye, shall be disnecessary consequence, equally sub- played in the superlative of glory, lime and comprehensive with his amidst the enraptured congratulations origin and nature. He touches every of innumerable multitudes of holy point in the universe, whether mate- spirits, assembled not only from all rial or immaterial, animal, intellectual, earthly nations, and all mundane or moral — temporal, spiritual, or ages, but from all the celestial domineternal. He not only derives plea- ions, states, and communities of the sure from all these sources, but feels empire of God. that he is related to God, angels, and To contemplate an eternity past, all natures, by ties, and sympathies, to anticipate an eternity yet to come, and nice dependencies, from which with full developed minds of celestial arise innumerable pleasures, duties, stature, dwelling in spiritual and inand obligations, each of which becomes corruptible bodies of unfading beauty a new source of delight to him who, re- and immortal youth, to survey the conciled to the government of the right- | past creations of God-to witness the ful Sovereign, seeks the enjoyment of new—to commune with one another, all things in subordination to his will. | and with all intelligences, on all the

The destiny of man is in harmony manifestations of the divinity-and with his nature, relations, and origin. above all, to trace acts of the great True, indeed, there is a dark, cheer- drama of man's redemption as deless, and gloomy mansion, to which veloped by the Divine Author and his mortality is for a season confined. Perfecter of a remedial economy-to But should he learn in this life the read the library of heaven, the volscience of happiness, and regulate his umes of Creation, of Providence and actions according to the philosophy Redemption—to intercommunicate of bliss, beyond that land of darkness the sentiments and emotions arising and of night, that dreary bourne of from such themes, interrupted only by his follies, misfortunes, and sins, heavenly anthems, and fresh glories “ there is a land of pure delight,” a breaking on our enraptured visions more blissful paradise than that of —will constitute a proper employancient Eden, in which man will ment for beings of such endowments, freely eat of the fruit of a more deli- capacities, and aspiration as man. cious tree of life, breathe a purer air, Need I add, to disclose such secrets see a brighter sun, and enjoy, without -to reveal such mysteries—and to the intervention of a cloud, the light guide man in a path that leads to of that divine and glorious counte- such a destiny, is not the province of nance which illumines all the suns philosophy—of the mere light of na

« PreviousContinue »