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This wrathful proceeding has, for one thing, driven the adherents of a good cause into a wide dispersion; and wherever they have gone, they have carried their sacred faith, and become its apostles: they have carried much of their Christian virtues also. Where they have remained suffering, their exemplary fortitude, resignation, and fidelity, have displayed their cause, their religion, with the advantage of being associated with these virtues. When they have been consigned to torments and a violent death, their invincible determination, heroic devotement, and unshaken constancy, have displayed much more than their absolute conviction of the truth of what they suffered for; have proved that a divine energy supported them ; proved, that their cause was the cause of God. It is true, and familiar to our knowledge, that there have been martyrs (though not many) for doctrines that were false, even for Atheism itself. But these were either persons ardently fanatical, almost up to the pitch of madness; or men of the most proud, intrepid, obstinate temperament. But look at the myriads of Christian sufferers, of both sexes, of all ages, and of all qualities; many of them of little natural courage, few of them inured to Spartan and martial habits. And it were contemptible and wilful folly to affect not to see a divine power and testimony in this; multitudes of Heathens did see it in this light, and themselves became Christians and martyrs through the conviction. Now here, God received glory through “ the wrath of man.” His religion was magnificently honoured, his intervention manifestly shown, his cause was rapidly extended.-Ibid.
CONVERSATIONS ON NATURAL THEOLOGY,
AND ITS TRUE RELATIONS TO
CONVERSATION 1. Juvenis. I have lately been reading “ Proofs and Illustrations of the Attributes of God, from the Facts and Laws
* The present are days of freethinking, more daring than ever, though in a somewhat altered form, daring because plausible. The peculiarities of the
of the Physical Universe, "* by Dr. Macculloch. Have you read it, and what do you think of it?
Senex. Your first question I answer very briefly. Yes. Your second requires to be somewhat explanatory. In some points of view, it is a truly excellent work, and contains much that a judicious Christian may read with equal pleasure and profit. But mind, I say, judicious. On some subjects, the author was evidently bewildered; and as he thought without clearness, he has often expressed himself with great incorrectness. He did not rightly perceive the precise character of the mutual relations between what is called natural theology, and Christian theology. At times, he uses expressions which raise the former far to high; but at others, he says that which reduces it to its proper level. He speaks, too, of the objections made by many believers in revealed religion to the study of this natural theology, and clearly shows that they are often mistaken and groundless; but he does not seem to have perceived that, in point of fact, they were suggested by the undue claims made by their opponents. As he speaks of natural theology, the objections alleged by many Christians are certainly mistaken; but he overlooks the undeniable fact, that its disciples do not speak as he does. On the whole, though his mental bewilderment prevents him from speaking clearly, natural theology is a department of Christian theology, presenting different classes of facts, but
Gospel are not directly denied, but an attempt is made to set them on one side, and invoke nature and charity in their stead. We believe that we have among our readers some studious youth who will be glad to have the nature and object of this subtle attack on Christianity explained. We propose to give a few papers devoted to this object. When we have explained the mutual bearings of nature and revelation, we shall be prepared to show the believers in the latter, that they have sometimes, through the undue pretensions of the former, overlooked it, where they might have found a glorious testimony in their own favour. We want to guide the youthful reader to sound and independent thought.
We take the opportunity of saying, that various circumstances have combined to make our pages so miscellaneous, as that we may seem to have overlooked some of our serial papers. They will soon see, however, that if these, through the press of other matter, have been postponed, they have not been forgotten.
* Three vols. 8vo., 3d Edition, London, 1842.
faets perfectly harmonizing; whereas, its friends often put it instead of Christianity, and eulogize the first at the expense of the last. It is not surprising that in opposing it as thus propounded, it should be opposed altogether.
J. Dr. Macculloch, I think, does not thus oppose them.
S. Assuredly not. One great instance of the usefulness of what he calls natural religion is, that it positively declares its own insufficiency, and demonstrates the absolute necessity of revelation. He not only allows, but contends for it, that nature never taught even the truths of natural religion, so called; but that wherever they are known, they are first known from revelation. Thus, (vol. i., p. 39,) he says, “If India, Egypt, Greece, did not discover such a system of natural religion as we can now lay down, why should we suppose that we owe this to our own unassisted reasonings? The self-deception is obvious. We have learned from revelation : it is God who has taught us in his own word; and in overrating our powers, we endanger the slighting of that word.” Again, (p. 40,) “ If it is from revelation, therefore, that we have drawn the truth, it is there also that we are bound to seek it.” And (p. 41) he asserts that, “it is from revelation that we have learned what we imagine ourselves to have deduced through reasoning.”
J. Then Dr. Macculloch may not be quoted as an advocate for natural theology as so distinct from revelation as to be independent of it, opposed to it, and sufficient without it?
S. Most assuredly not: but, from the want of a clear perception of the true foundation of many of the objections of the Christian believer to natural theology, he sometimes expresses himself very unguardedly. His meaning was good; but his ideas were all in confusion. I would not construct an argument out of a metaphor. But take such a view of the subject as this. Nature teaches certain truths, but in hieroglyphical characters, which are useless till we possess the key; and that key only revelation furnishes. Or, nature possesses certain facts; but we cannot see them till the light shines on them; and that light is only afforded by revelation. Here is the true place of natural religion. It is a department of revealed religion, not understood till revealed religion
be possessed ; but containing enough, not indeed in the first instance to discover truth, but to prove falsehood to be false. By nature, man never learned even the moral lessons which nature involves, when properly understood; but when revelation discovers the truth, much of what is discovered is subsequently seen to be proved and established by nature.
J. What appears to you to be the real state of the case ?
S. First: Revelation enables us to perceive the lessons which nature teaches. Second: Revelation makes known much that nature does not contain. Third : What nature only suggests, as probable, revelation declares as true. There are some things of which nature, even in the light of revelation, only says, Perhaps they may be. Revelation says, They are so. What is properly called natural religion is the handmaid, not the rival, of revealed. And I am persuaded that if writers on natural religion had always clearly admitted this absolute supremacy, and all-inclusiveness of revealed religion, many objections made to the former by believers in the latter would never have been heard. They have been obliged to stand on their defence, as against an opponent; and they have carried their defences into a blockading nonintercourse. Each party has thus lost many advantages.
J. But are there no means of reconciliation ? Are things thus in a right position?
S. Certainly. Properly understood, the two never contradict each other where they refer to the same subjects. God is truth : he therefore both speaks truth, and acts truth. When his works and words, therefore, relate to the same thing, their teaching will be the same. Where one speaks only in part, and the other fully, the fuller teaching will explain that which is only in part. And where one pauses, the other may proceed, and say what far transcends the first.
J. I readily admit these general observations. But give them the shape of particular statements, expressing the actual relations and bearings as between nature and revelation.
S. I will try to do so. For many years, I have, I think I · may say, deeply reflected on the subject; and it has, at length,
acquired, in my own mind, a somewhat definite shape. It is fully admitted by Dr. Macculloch, and there is not in the whole past history of mankind an instance to the contrary, that nature is insufficient for the purpose of discovery. This partly arises from the now unspiritual character of fallen man, and partly, from the difficulty of inferring the real truth respecting the divine personality from such premises. Causality is suggested ; but we must first know the cause, to be able to collect all that the effect declares, and refer it properly. Nature itself, therefore, as Dr. Macculloch says, by this declaration of her own insufficiency, suggests the necessity of revelation, and thus bears a previous testimony to its value. But, secondly, God, having made himself known to man by revelation, points to his works to confirm and illustrate what the revelation asserts.
J. How does revelation confirm nature?
S. Nature is a collection of both facts and wants; and with these, nature is in perfect agreement. What revelation says that God is, nature, properly understood, declares that he is likewise, illustrating, to the extent of its range, the very same perfections. We feel a need of authoritative directions for certain purposes. Revelation gives them; and, putting the one over against the other, they exactly correspond. Even as to the fact of redemption, nature declares it to be needed, and we find it to be precisely suited to our case. So as to our dread of death, and longings for immortality. Revelation fully meets them. Even where it goes beyond nature, it agrees with its extended analogies; and where it refers to the same subjects, the harmony is complete. There is no contradiction. The God of the Bible, and the Author of nature, is evidently one and the same.
J. How does nature illustrate revelation ?
S. The Scripture reveals the attributes of God; and nature furnishes clear instances of the actual operations of those very attributes, and of none other. Dr. Macculloch suggests some. There is “omnipotence.” Look only at the solar system, its creation, its continuance. This also illustrates “wisdom.” How exactly are its movements regulated, its very disturbances neutralising each other, and contributing to perfect stability! Look at any part of nature, say, in reference